The results of a new Japanese study show that the cholesterol-fighting drugs known as statins may help in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The study indicated that the drugs prompted the death of certain joint cells involved in RA. These findings were reported in the February 2006 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.
The researchers found that statins, specifically fluvastatin, induced cell death in synovial cells, which are believed to play a key role in RA. These cells normally produce synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints. In patients with RA, however, the joints are attacked by the body's own immune system, and it is thought that out-of-control synovial cells may contribute to RA. The investigators tested both fluvastatin and pravastatin on problem cells, both in doses ~10 times greater than would normally be prescribed for high cholesterol. Only fluvastatin was found to bring on cell death.
The researchers stated that, although these results are encouraging, clinical trials involving statins used in RA patients need to be conducted for a further understanding of the connection.