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Statins May Curb Rheumatoid Arthritis

Cholesterol-Fighting Statin Drugs Show Potential in Lab Tests
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 30, 2006 -- Cholesterol-curbing drugs called statins may help treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a new study shows.

In lab tests, statins prompted the death of certain joint cells involved in rheumatoid arthritis, according to the researchers. They included Takao Nagashima, MD, of St. Marianna University School of Medicine in Kawasaki, Japan.

Some statins may have "potential" against rheumatoid arthritis, write Nagashima and colleagues. But they aren't recommending statins for rheumatoid arthritis since they didn't study any rheumatoid arthritis patients directly and they tested high doses of the drugs.

Examples of statins include the brands Lipitor, Pravachol, and Zocor.

Stalking Cell Death

The study focused on synovial cells. Normally, synovial tissue makes synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the joints are attacked by the body's immune system. No one knows exactly how rheumatoid arthritis works, but out-of-control synovial cells may play a key role in the joint damage, the researchers write.

Could statins control troublesome synovial cells? To find out, Nagashima's team tested several Japanese-made statins on synovial cells.

One drug, fluvastatin, sparked synovial cell death. Another statin, pravastatin, didn't have the same effect, the study shows.

Although these statins work similarly to improve cholesterol, they performed differently with synovial cells, the researchers note. The doses used in the experiment were about 10 times higher than normal prescriptions for cholesterol control.

Statins should be tested against rheumatoid arthritis in clinical trials, write Nagashima and colleagues.

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