Cardiovascular morbidity and mortality associated with the use of corticosteroids in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a population based study

More than 300,000 Canadians have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a disease that causes chronic pain and inflammation in the joints. In British Columbia, more than half of people with rheumatoid arthritis receive corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. Several studies have shown that patients with RA are more likely to develop and die from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and, on average, live 12 years less than people without RA. The increased risk for CVD cannot be fully explained by traditional risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and a family history of CVD. Disease severity as well as treatment used in the management of the disease seems to play an important role in the development of CVD. Dr. Antonio Aviña-Zubieta is studying cases of individuals in BC who were diagnosed with RA between 1997 and 2000, and evaluating outcomes in people who received corticosteroids with those who did not to determine if there are differences between the two groups in the number of heart attacks, heart failure and stroke. This will help to establish if corticosteroids used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis contribute to CVD. He also will study whether the brand, dose and duration of use with different drugs influence the risk of heart disease. The results could offer new insights, leading to improved treatment and management of rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions for which these drugs are commonly prescribed.