Among those taking statins, there was only a small, short-term reduction in risk of development of osteoarthritis.
"Although the study does not have immediate clinical implications, our findings may suggest that patients who were prescribed statins and take it persistently may benefit from the many effects of statins, which go far beyond cholesterol reduction, including the reduction of rheumatoid arthritis risk," Chodick said.
A previous study on the same group indicated that persistent use of statins was associated with substantially lower all-cause mortality, which could not be explained only by the prevention of cardiovascular disease, he said.
"We believe that a major part of the improved survival among statin users comes from the anti-inflammatory effects demonstrated by lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Unfortunately, our previous study indicated that, despite their benefits, many patients on statins discontinue their treatment," Chodick said.
This work received no outside or corporate finding, the researchers noted.
Dr. Robert Myerburg, a professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, stressed that "this is a study looking for an association, and it doesn't prove that starting statins early in life will prevent or delay the onset of rheumatoid arthritis."
The only way to prove the connection is with a clinical trial, Myerburg said. "At this point, I would not use a statin for that [prevention of rheumatoid arthritis] indication," he said.
For more information on statins, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Gabriel Chodick, Ph.D., Maccabi Healthcare Services, Tel Aviv, Israel; Robert Myerburg, M.D., professor, medicine and physiology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; September 2010, PLoS Medicine
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