Arthritis Patients Missing Out on Aspirin Benefits

FEBRUARY 01, 2006

New research shows that many patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are not taking advantage of aspirin therapy, despite the fact that these patients are more likely to develop heart disease. Low-dose aspirin therapy has been proven to reduce the risk of heart attacks, yet researchers have found that only 18% of RA patients are actually on aspirin therapy. Patients with other forms of arthritis, however, are more likely to take daily aspirin—25% of them do so, according to the results of a 3-year study that involved 18,123 arthritis patients (14,114 of whom had RA).

Patients with RA are twice as likely to develop heart disease as patients with other types of arthritis, but the reasons for this statistic have yet to be made clear. Some theories suggest that the inflammation triggered by RA contributes to cholesterol buildup and artery blockages.

Although the reasons are not clear, researchers speculate that RA patients might be missing out on aspirin's benefits because rheumatologists and primary care physicians fail to consider a patient's overall health. According to Eric Ruderman, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, "Maybe we're not looking at the rest of the picture as much as we should."