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Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs May Fight Rheumatoid Arthritis

In laboratory, statin drugs reduced rheumatoid cell proliferation

MONDAY, Jan. 30, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Early findings in the laboratory suggest that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs might prove an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Japanese researchers say the statin drug fluvastatin induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) in synovial cells collected from people with rheumatoid arthritis.

People with rheumatoid arthritis experience abnormal proliferation of the synovial tissue that lines the joints. This is the first study to show that statins induce the death of these excess synovial cells.

"In the present study, we demonstrated that fluvastatin induced apoptosis in synoviocytes from patients with rheumatoid arthritis, but not in those from patients with [non-rheumatoid] osteoarthropathy," said researchers led by Takao Nagashima of Jichi Medical School, in Tochigi. That finding suggests that the cell-killing effect of statins is specific to inflammatory processes that characterize rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers said.

The statin concentrations used in this study were much higher than amounts that would normally be prescribed to patients. However, it may be possible that lower, sustained levels of statins would induce synovial cell apoptosis in rheumatoid arthritis patients, the researchers said.

"Based on these results, we propose that the statins warrant clinical trials as potential modifiers of RA," the authors concluded.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about rheumatoid arthritis.

SOURCE: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. news release, Jan. 30, 2006
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