WEDNESDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Statins, lauded for their ability to lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks and strokes, may also reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, Israeli researchers report.
"We found that statin users who purchased their medication persistently were less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis over a long follow-up period," said lead researcher Gabriel Chodick, from Maccabi Healthcare Services in Tel Aviv.
For example, compared with patients who took statins less than 20 percent of the time, patients who took statins for 40 percent to 59 percent of the time had a 23 percent lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, he said.
"Patients who were covered for more than 80 percent of the time, had a 40 percent lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis," Chodick said. "The effect was stronger in younger patients and in patients using more effective statins."
The report was published online Sept. 7 in PLoS Medicine.
For the study, Chodick's team collected data on 1.8 million patients who got their health care through the Maccabi Healthcare Services, an HMO in Israel.
The researchers looked for connections between statin use and the development of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that is unlikely to be affected by statins, the researchers noted.
Over nine years of follow-up, 2,578 people developed rheumatoid arthritis and 17,878 developed osteoarthritis.
When Chodick's group looked at statin use, they found that those not taking statins had a 51 percent higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis over about 80 percent of the follow-up period.
After looking for other possibilities, those who took statins regularly had a 41 percent lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis compared with people who were not taking statins regularly.
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