Arthritis Watch

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Smoking, Quitting Raise Problems for RA

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who are heavy smokersseem to have more loss of muscle mass, compared withindividuals who smoke less or not at all. The researchers alsonoted that the patients with RA are more likely to gain weightwhen they stop smoking, according to a study reported inArthritis Research & Therapy (May 2008).

The study involved 392 patients (102 = male and 290 =women) who had RA for 4 to 18 years and were 63 years oldon average. Of the participants, 69 were current smokers, 147were former smokers, and 176 never smoked. The researchersfound that current smokers had a significantly lower bodymass and body fat, compared with former smokers and nonsmokers.Heavy smokers also had the lowest muscle massvalues, compared with the other 2 groups. The findings alsoindicated that 50% of former smokers were obese, comparedwith 39% of nonsmokers and 30% of current smokers.

The researchers suggested that the findings be confirmed ina study that tracks the impact of smoking, over time.

Cod Oil Cuts Back NSAID Use

A small study found that taking 10 g of cod liver oil a day loweredthe need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by30%. The goal of the study was to find an alternative treatmentafter concerns about increased risk of side effects with NSAIDs,such as heart attacks and strokes, were raised.

For the study, published recently in Rheumatology, the patientswere either given cod liver oil or placebo and after 12weeks were asked to gradually cut back the use of NSAIDs.Nearly 60 patients completed the 9-month trial.

The results showed that 39% of the participants taking codliver oil reduced their daily dose of NSAIDs, compared with10% in the placebo group. The researchers noted that reductionin drug use was not linked with any worsening of pain orthe disease.

Cane Takes Load OffArthritic Knees

Older adults with knee arthritis may benefit from using a caneto reduce some of the weight on their knees, according to astudy reported in Arthritis Care & Research (May 15, 2008).

The study included 40 men and women over age 50 withmedial knee osteoarthritis. Researchers used a 6-cameramotion analysis system to study each patient?s gait—bothbarefoot and wearing comfortable shoes. Of the patients, 20also had their gait assessed while using a cane on the oppositeside of the painful knee. The researchers found that when the20 patients used a cane, it reduced the force on the inner sideof the knee joint with each step, and that walking shoes putadditional stress on the joint, compared with walking barefoot.

Breast-feeding ReducesRA Risk

A European study found that women who breast-fed theirbabies for 13 months or longer were half as likely to get rheumatoidarthritis (RA).

The findings were based on a comparison of 136 womenwith RA and 544 women of similar age without the condition.The researchers also found that breast-feeding for up to 12months made women 25% less prone to having RA.

The study results, reported in Annals of the RheumaticDiseases (May 2008), support previous research connectingbreast-feeding to a lower risk of the disease. As with otherstudies, however, the researchers could not determine theexact reason why.

Environmental Factors May Cause Arthritis

Researchers have found that environmentalfactors are linked with the onsetof inflammatory arthritis in patients withpsoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis is "inflammatoryarthritis on a background of preexistingor future development of psoriasis,"wrote researchers in the May 2008 issueof the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. Forthe study, the investigators compared 98patients who developed inflammatoryarthritis within the past 5 years with acontrol group of 163 patients with psoriasisbut not arthritis. The results showedthat exposures before the onset of arthritisthat positively correlated with the conditionincluded trauma requiring medicalcare (14.9% for patients with psoriaticarthritis vs 7.9% of controls) and recurrentoral ulcers (25.3% vs 8.9%).

Patients with psoriatic arthritis alsowere more pone to have had a bonefracture that required hospital admission,compared with the control group(50% vs 9%).

F A S T F A C T: As the US population ages, the number of individuals who have physician-diagnosed arthritis isprojected to increase to 67 million by 2030.