Immunotherapy reduces cardiovascular risk in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis who received immunotherapy had a decrease in cardiovascular risk, according to a recent study.

Aida Babaeva, MD, of Volgograd State Medical University in Russia, presented the results at the CardioVascular Biology conference in Florence, Italy.

During the trial, the researchers randomized 68 patients who had rheumatoid arthritis for at least five years to receive anti-tumor necrosis factor and anti-interferon medications or placebo. All patients received standard disease-modifying therapy.

After three years, 13 percent of patients who received immunotherapy and 37 percent of patients who only received the standard therapy had cardiovascular events, which the researchers defined as unstable angina, severe hypertensive crisis and deterioration of chronic heart failure. Patients who received immunotherapy also had a lower rheumatoid arthritis disease activity score.

Of patients with hypertension, 71 percent in the immunotherapy group and 32 percent in the placebo group reached their target blood pressure. However, Babaeva said in a news release that the findings do not necessarily mean the anti-tumor necrosis factor and anti-interferon medications were responsible for the patients reaching their target blood pressure.

“We do not think that all patients with rheumatoid arthritis should be treated with this combination,” Babaeva said in a news release. “In patients with highly active disease, the standard biologics are better at preventing severe complications such as progressive joint destruction and/or systemic manifestations (vasculitis, uveitis, involvement of internal organs). We recommend this new approach for preventing cardiovascular events in patients with moderate disease activity who are not receiving the standard biologics and who do not have severe complications.”