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Newer RA Drugs May Reduce Heart Risk

Downside to Biologics Is Lower Immunity, Increased Risk of Shingles, Others Find
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Anti-TNFs & Heart Attacks Study

In his study, Nurmohamed evaluated nearly 110,000 patients with RA on various types of RA drugs.

He then calculated risk reduction with the anti-TNF drugs.

The reduced risk for heart attacks, he says, is tied to suppressing inflammation.

"We know now that inflammation is important for atherosclerosis," so suppressing it is good not only for the RA but for heart attack risk reduction, he says.

"The take-home message is that disease activity should be reduced a much as possible, first by DMARDS. If that is not enough, biologics should be considered from a cardiovascular point of view."

Nurmohamed reports speaker's fees and consultant work for Abbott and other pharmaceutical companies.

RA, Biologics & Life Expectancy Study

In another study of nearly 9,000 RA patients, German researchers found those on the anti-TNF drugs had about half the risk of death as those on DMARDs during the follow-up period of about 3.5 years.

Nearly the same benefit was found for those on rituximab (Rituxan), another type of biologic treatment that suppresses the immune system inflammatory response and is often used with anti-TNFs when anti-TNFs don't work well enough

The study was sponsored by Abbott and other drug companies.

A third study found that early control and resolution of disease activity, when achieved with RA medicines, is linked with better overall survival in those with RA affecting more than four joints.

Researchers evaluated more than 2,700 RA patients and followed them up for about nine years. Those who were in remission a year after the first assessment had the biggest reduction in death risk, about 25% or more.

RA, Biologics, & Shingles Risk

For the shingles study, Helene Che of the Lapeyronie Hospital in Montpellier re-evaluated 22 published studies and 28 abstracts.

Patients were on DMARDs and biologics.

Those on anti-TNFs had a 75% higher risk of getting shingles than those on DMARDs.

Perspectives on Biologics for RA

The studies about heart attack prevention and better survival are confirming previous research, says Patience White, MD, vice president for public health at the Arthritis Foundation. She reviewed the findings for WebMD.

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