Millions of people suffer from osteoarthritis. For most of these individuals, the only treatment is consuming pain pills since there is no cure for the disorder.
Besides changes in lifestyle and maintaining decent weight, there are no absolute methods to prevent the disorder. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, so far there are no medications that can help prevent progression of osteoarthritis.
Now a study shows that statins can slow progression of arthritis in the knee but not the hip. (1)
This latest study from Holland involved 2921 patients who were followed for 6.5 years. More than 50 percent of patients were women and the mean age was 65.
About 11 percent of patients were already on statins prior to the study. Base line X-rays were done to look for evidence of osteoarthritis.
The researchers observed that statin use was associated with a decreased progression of arthritis of the knee. On the other hand, statin use did not affect worsening of hip arthritis.
The study noted that the overall progression of knee arthritis was decreased with statin use even after adjustment for age, gender, body mass index, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes.
How statins slow down the progression of osteoarthritis is not really known but the researchers feel that certain metabolic factors may be playing a role.
How should the consumer look at this information?
First, this is only a preliminary study and the results need to be reproduced. (2) Statins are widely used drugs to lower cholesterol in patients with heart disease. However, these drugs are not innocuous and the occasional patient can develop severe muscle breakdown and long-term pain.
Secondly no one knows how long these drugs need to be taken and whether they work in everyone. Finally, what is the point of taking a drug, which prevents progression in one joint but does not affect progression of arthritis in other joints?
So what should the consumer do?
For those with osteoarthritis, it is best to be patient and see what future research shows. For those who want to prevent osteoarthritis, it is important to change lifestyle, eat healthy, not smoke, and avoid excess weight.
Relying on statins for prevention of osteoarthritis for many years is not only expensive but can also lead to drug-induced complications.
Clockaerts S, et al "Statin use is associated with reduced incidence and progression of knee osteoarthritis in the Rotterdam study" Ann Rheum Dis. 2011 Oct 11. Abstract:
Conaghan P "The effects of statins on osteoarthritis structural progression: another glimpse of the Holy Grail?" Ann Rheum Dis. 2012 Mar 2. [Epub ahead of print] Abstract:
Reviewed April 11, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith