People with Rheumatoid Arthritis are prone to develop heart disease, but treatment with the newer class of drugs called TNF inhibitors appears to lower risk of a cardiovascular event occurring, according to researchers in Sweden.
Dr. Lennart T. H. Jacobsson of Malmo University Hospital and colleagues note that previous studies suggest that increased Heart disease in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients may be associated with inflammatory mechanisms.
“Inflammation is increasingly being considered as an important risk factor for vascular disease in general and in accordance with this, the risk for vascular disease is doubled in patients with RA,” said Dr. Jacobsson.
To determine what influence inflammation-reducing treatment with TNF inhibitors might have, the researchers used national and local data to identify 983 Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. Of these, 531 were being treated with the TNF blockers Enbrel or Remicade, the researchers report in the Journal of Rheumatology.
Using links to national registers on patient care and causes of death, the researchers estimated that the incidence rate of a first cardiovascular event such as a Heart Attack or need for heart surgery was 14 per 1000 persons per year in anti-TNF treated patients. In contrast, the incidence rate was 35 per 1000 in those not treated with anti-TNF drugs,.
As well as being of “great importance” to RA patients, Jacobsson concluded, “circumstantial evidence suggests that you might expect similar protective effects with regard to vascular disease ... in non-RA patients.”
SOURCE: Journal of Rheumatology, July 2005.
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD