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Failure to take statins could boost heart attack risk for RA patients

People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) should be urged to comply with their statin therapy as failure to do so can increase the risk of a heart attack, a new study has found.

The findings of the survey, which were published in Arthritis Care & Research, reveal that RA patients have a higher cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality risk than the average population.

Previous studies already found that CVD is the main cause of death among RA patients. More than one in three RA patients (38%) do not comply with their statin therapy. Such action has been found to raise the risk of having a heart attack by 67%.

Statins are used to control a patient’s cholesterol levels and keep the risk of heart disease to a minimum. They include drugs such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and rosuvastatin (Crestor).

Lead author Mary De Vera, PhD, from the University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health and Arthritis Research Centre of Canada, said: “Our study provides evidence of the harmful effects of ceasing statin therapy.”

Arthritis Research UK medical director Alan Silman said: “We’ve known for over 10 years that rheumatoid arthritis patients have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Part of the reason for this increased risk, is the inflammation in their joints. 

“Statins decrease cholesterol in the general public, but for rheumatoid arthritis patients they may also reduce the level of inflammation.”

Professor Silman added: “Arthritis Research UK is funding research to make people with rheumatoid arthritis more aware of their increased risk of cardiovascular problems, so they can make the necessary lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking, losing weight, eating more healthily - and taking statins.”

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