Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Cholesterol Drug May Help Rheumatoid Arthritis

List of Potential Benefits Continues to Grow for Lipitor, Other Statins
WebMD Health News

June 17, 2004 -- The cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor offers modest but significant benefits to people with rheumatoid arthritis, a small study suggests.

A lot more study is needed. But the new finding broadens the list of benefits from an amazing class of cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins. Examples of other statins include Crestor, Pravachol, and Zocor.

It's becoming increasingly clear that statins do more than lower cholesterol. One of these effects is on the immune system. Statins alter the complex chain of events that make tissues red, swollen, and painful -- a reaction known as inflammation. Inflammation lies at the heart of rheumatoid arthritis.

Might statins help people with arthritis? David W. McCarey, MD, and colleagues at the University of Glasgow decided to find out. They added either Lipitor or a placebo to the treatment regimens of 116 rheumatoid arthritis patients.

After six months, the patients who took Lipitor did a bit better than the others. They had lower scores on a medical index of rheumatoid arthritis activity. And they had fewer swollen joints, although they did not report significantly better health. In addition, the Lipitor group had lower levels of two markers of inflammation -- sed rate and C-reactive protein. The findings appear in the June 19 issue of The Lancet.

"Although the magnitude of change is modest, the significant reduction [in disease activity] provides proof of concept that pathways targeted by statins offer therapeutic opportunity in inflammatory disease," McCarey and colleagues write.

Tailor-Made Statins

The researchers note that Lipitor added to the effect of other disease-modifying drugs the patients were taking. They suggest that longer treatment -- or, even better, new statin-like drugs specifically designed for rheumatoid arthritis patients -- might be even more helpful.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Karolinska Institute researchers Lars Klareskog, MD, PhD, and Anders Hamsten, MD, PhD, welcome the findings.

They note that patients with rheumatoid arthritis are at high risk of heart disease. Statins, they suggest, may kill two birds with one stone. They may lower this high risk of heart disease via their cholesterol-lowering action. And they may help treat arthritis itself. It's unclear exactly why rheumatoid arthritis patients are at high risk of heart disease, though it's felt to be related to the higher levels of inflammation in the body.

Today on WebMD

rubbing hands
Avoid these 6 common mistakes.
mature couple exercising
Decrease pain, increase energy.
mature woman threading needle
How much do you know?
Swelling, fatigue, pain, and more.
Lucille Ball
Hand bones X-ray
prescription pills
Woman massaging her neck
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Woman rubbing shoulder
Working out with light weights