Cholesterol Rx Takes Care of Joints Too

Osteoarthritis symptoms decreased over time with higher statin dosage

(RxWiki News) A certain cholesterol-lowering medicine could knock two birds with one stone if patients' joints are hurting as well.

A recent study found that taking a higher statin dose for a longer period of time was tied to significant reductions in osteoarthritis symptoms.

Statins are medicines that lower cholesterol levels.

The results from this study show that a higher dose of statins could lead to ways to prevent osteoarthritis pain, according to the authors. Larger increases in dosage may also help with the pain.

"Ask your pharmacist about statins."

U.T. Kadam, PhD, from the Health Services Research Unit at Innovation Centre in the UK, led this investigation into whether statins can reduce the long-term occurrence of osteoarthritis.

Statins — which include such brand name medications as Lipitor, Zocor and Pravachol — may have a modifying role in osteoarthritis since they affect the bodily system that controls nutrient supply throughout the body, according to the researchers.

This study included 16,609 adults who had heart disease. The patients were at least 40 years of age and listed in the UK General Practice Research Database up through December 2006.

The researchers tracked how often the patients developed osteoarthritis while taking statins over a two-year period.

About 5,000 participants took a 15-milligram dose of statins on average each day for at least two years. The rest of the participants were not statin users.

Patients were assessed immediately after the two-year period, as well as four and 10 years after. The average daily statin dose size and whether doses changed over the study period were noted.

Patients' gender, age, body mass index (a measure of height and weight combined) and cholesterol levels were taken into account.

The researchers also noted any other pain medications the patients took, how long patients had had heart disease and the severity of each patient's heart disease.

Taking a higher dose of statins over a two-year period or longer was linked to a significant reduction in clinical osteoarthritis compared to non-statin users, the researchers found.

The average statin dose increased over the 10-year follow-up period. Statin dose increased 5 milligrams in the first two and a half years and then up to 10 milligrams through year 5.

Dose size then went up to 18 milligrams during the next couple of years and over 18 milligrams in the last two years.

Compared to non-statin users, the largest increase in statin dose size was linked with an average 18 percent reduction in osteoarthritis symptoms within two years and a 40 percent reduction after four years.

Patients using the lowest statin dose during the first two and a half years of the study were two and a half times more likely to still have osteoarthritis symptoms compared to those who didn't take statins.

"These findings further support the hypothesis that biologic modification of [osteoarthritis] may be plausible, and the potential clinical implication is that [osteoarthritis] management may share preventative approaches with cardiovascular disease," the researchers wrote in their report.

This study, supported by the National Institute for Health Research, Royal Society International and WestMidlands Advantage, was published in July in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The researchers did not declare any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
June 18, 2013