Osteoarthritis and high cholesterol may seem like totally unrelated conditions. But as it turns out, the same medicines that lower cholesterol may also help prevent osteoarthritis.
Cholesterol-lowering statins are prescribed to reduce stroke and heart attacks.
Risk factors for developing osteoarthritis (the "wear and tear" form of arthritis) include old age, obesity and previous injury to joints.
Recent research has suggested that patients with cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol are at an increased risk of osteoarthritis.
Results showed that patients taking high doses of statins had a lower rate of osteoarthritis.
Umesh Kadam, PhD, of Health Services Research Unit at Keele University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues set out to determine if patients taking statins had reduced rates of osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage between joints wears away. With no cartilage, bones grind together and can cause pain, swelling and stiffness.
The study included 16,609 patients over 40 years old that had cardiovascular disease but not osteoarthritis. Researchers used data from a national database to follow the patients for 10 years.
A total of 4,976 patients used statins for at least two years and 11,633 did not take statins. Statins are sold under different brand names, including Crestor, Lipitor, Vytorin and Zocor.
At the 10-year follow-up, patients taking the highest doses of statins had a lower rate of developing osteoarthritis.
Patients taking 18.5 mg or more per day had a 60 percent lower rate of osteoarthritis compared to those not taking statins. Patients taking a daily dose between 10 and 18.5 mg had a 20 percent lower rate of osteoarthritis compared to patients not taking the medication.
However, patients taking lower doses of statins actually had increased rates of osteoarthritis compared to patients not taking the medication.
In the daily dose range of 4.7 to 9.9 mg, patients were 1.3 times more likely to develop osteoarthritis compared to patients not taking statins. Patients taking a 5 mg daily dosage were 2.6 times more likely to develop osteoarthritis compared to patients not taking the medication.
"The potential clinical implication is that osteoarthritis management may share preventative approaches with cardiovascular disease," the authors said in the study.
The authors suggested that doctors should consider prescribing higher statin doses to patients who are at risk of developing osteoarthritis.
This study, titled "Statin Use and Clinical Osteoarthritis in the General Population: A Longitudinal Study," was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. It was funded by National Institute for Health Research, Royal Society International, WestMidlands Advantage and National School for Primary Care Research. Dr. Kadam and colleagues disclosed no conflicts of interest.