Statins may prove helpful in treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA) because they help fight inflammation, according to a preliminary Scottish study. The study included 116 participants who were given either a daily dose of atorvastatin or an inactive placebo. The researchers reported recently in the Lancet that patients who took a daily dose of atorvastatin showed a small but statistically significant improvement in arthritis, compared with patients who took a placebo.
Recognizing that the current study was small scale, lead investigator Iain B. McInnes said, "We need bigger more powerful studies" to find out whether statins have a role in treating RA. "There were 2 things we were trying to achieve in the study," he added. "One was to test whether statins, which in most people have an anti-inflammatory effect, could influence a condition in which inflammation is a prime mover. The second was based on the recognition that patients with rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of vascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. We wanted to see if we could modify markers of that risk. On both counts, we saw an effect."