New research shows that many patients with rheumatoidarthritis (RA) are not taking advantage of aspirin therapy,despite the fact that these patients are more likely to developheart disease. Low-dose aspirin therapy has been provento reduce the risk of heart attacks, yet researchers havefound that only 18% of RA patients are actually on aspirintherapy. Patients with other forms of arthritis, however, aremore likely to take daily aspirin—25% of them do so, accordingto the results of a 3-year study that involved 18,123arthritis patients (14,114 of whom had RA).
Patients with RA are twice as likely to develop heart diseaseas patients with other types of arthritis, but the reasonsfor this statistic have yet to be made clear. Some theoriessuggest that the inflammation triggered by RA contributes tocholesterol buildup and artery blockages.
Although the reasons are not clear, researchers speculatethat RA patients might be missing out on aspirin's benefitsbecause rheumatologists and primary care physicians fail toconsider a patient's overall health. According to EricRuderman, MD, an associate professor of medicine atNorthwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine,"Maybe we're not looking at the rest of the picture as muchas we should."