WEDNESDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- People suffering from
rheumatoid arthritis who stop taking their cholesterol-lowering
drugs may raise their risk of dying, a new study finds.
In fact, those who stopped taking statins raised their chances
of dying from cardiovascular disease by 60 percent and dying from
any cause by 79 percent during the course of the study, the
Canadian researchers reported.
Since rheumatoid arthritis is associated with an increased risk
of cardiovascular disease, patients often are prescribed statins
such as Lipitor (atorvastatin) or Crestor (rosuvastatin) to lower
"Doctor knows best," said Dr. Richard Furie, chief of the division of rheumatology at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Lake Success, N.Y. "Whatever medicines your doctor puts you on, take them all."
"We know that in inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular events are a significant problem and are the leading cause of death," he added.
The report was published in the March 28 online edition of the
Arthritis Care & Research.
For the study, a team led by Mary De Vera, from the School of
Population & Public Health at the University of British
Columbia in Vancouver, used records from the British Columbia
Ministry of Health to collect data on more than 37,000 rheumatoid
Among these patients, more than 4,000 were taking statins.
During the four years the researchers studied, however, about 45
percent stopped using the drugs for three months or more.
Of these patients, 198 died from cardiovascular disease -- 31
percent from heart attack and 15 percent from stroke, the
researchers found. In all, 467 of the patients died from all
The World Health Organization estimates that 1 percent of people
in developed countries suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Death
rates among people with rheumatoid arthritis are 1.5 times higher
than in the general population, with cardiovascular disease the
leading cause of death, the researchers noted.
Stopping use of statins, however, might be only part of the
reason for the increased risk of dying seen during the study, Furie
"Why is someone a bad patient?" he asked. "If they are a bad patient in adherence to medicines, they may be a bad patient in adherence to diet, exercise, smoking and a whole bunch of other things."
Adherence to medication is a big problem in general, Furie said.
Another reason people may stop taking statins or blood-pressure
medication is that they don't feel any different and don't see any
Short of watching patients take their medications, he said, the
question is, how can doctors make sure patients take them?
"You try to scare them," Furie said. "Some people scare and some people don't. The doctor knows best; take your pills."
For more on rheumatoid arthritis, visit the
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