Arthritis Q&A by Dr. Shiel

I've been taking Lipitor to lower my cholesterol. Someone told me that Lipitor may help me with my rheumatoid arthritis, too. Is this true?

Answer:

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease characterized by chronic inflammation. The joint lining tissue (synovium) of patients with rheumatoid arthritis features intense immune activity. Evidence suggests that a popular class of cholesterol treatment drugs, called statins, slightly change immune functions and may have a beneficial effect on patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Lipitor is a statin drug used to treat elevated blood cholesterol. It seems that statins have an effect that blocks certain chemical messengers of inflammation, called interleukins. Reducing the effect of specific interleukins in inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis is currently a very active area of medical research. More research in this area is still required to determine the exact role that statins could play in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

I should also point out that patients with rheumatoid arthritis are known to have a higher than average potential to develop heart disease. It is for this reason that doctors treating patients with rheumatoid arthritis are especially diligent about controlling their elevated cholesterol levels. It is very possible that your Lipitor may be beneficial to you in more than one way.

Thank you for your question.


Last Editorial Review: 12/22/2006