Investigators at the University of Miami found that methotrexate, commonly used to treat psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), may have a secondary function of reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and circulatory diseases that affect the heart and brain. Dr. Robert S. Kirsner explained that methotrexate is an analogue of folate and has anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce vascular disease, while at the same time it is linked to higher levels of homocysteine, which increases the risk of vascular disease. To determine how these effects balance each other out, researchers studied data from 7615 patients with psoriasis and 6707 patients with RA treated at Veterans Administration hospitals in Florida and Puerto Rico. The psoriasis patients who took methotrexate showed a significant reduction in vascular disease risk, but with the lowest risk in those patients given the lowest dose. Similar results were seen in the arthritis patients. Although methotrexate has a poor effect on homocysteine levels, investigators concluded that drug therapy including methotrexate "may provide further vasculoprotective benefits."
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.