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Statins are safe for people with rheumatoid arthritis

An open box of statin medication, alongside a stethoscope, a pen and printouts of lab test results.

May 29, 2019—People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have a heighted risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins can help prevent those problems. But because they can affect inflammation as well, it hasn't always been clear if these drugs were safe or effective for people with RA to use.

Now a new study delivers promising news. It found that people with RA get the same benefits from statins as anyone else—without making inflammation worse.

The study looked at over 3,000 adults who had RA for more than 10 years. Researchers randomly divided them into two groups. One group took the statin atorvastatin (Lipitor) daily. The other took a placebo.

After roughly 2.5 years of follow-up, the statin-takers had much lower levels of LDL, the bad cholesterol. And they were no more likely than the placebo group to have had a heart attack, stroke or other serious cardiovascular event.

People on statins also had lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation that is used to monitor RA. Elevated levels of this protein in the blood are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Are statins right for you?

The bottom line: If you have RA, statins are probably safe for you. This doesn't mean that all people with RA should take them, the researchers said. That's because the study showed that, overall, only a small number of people with RA had cardiovascular events.

But if your doctor advises them because you have other risk factors for heart disease or a stroke, then you can feel comfortable taking them.

The study appeared in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology.

Learn more about statins.

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