Research Points to Common Antimalarial Medication to Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Events in Patients with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis
March 24, 2022 (Vancouver) – New research ties hydroxychloroquine use by patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis to lower risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack, stroke and blood clots in the legs and lungs.
“Several prior studies have found a lower risk of blood clots blocking veins or arteries,” said Dr. Antonio Aviña-Zubieta, senior scientist, rheumatology at Arthritis Research Canada. “Our study builds on this research by demonstrating a lower risk of cardiovascular events, including blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks associated with hydroxychloroquine use in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.”
The study included 64,012 adult patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 6,421 with lupus over age 18 who were diagnosed between 1997 and 2015. The study examined whether patients with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, who were currently taking hydroxychloroquine, were at a greater risk of having a cardiovascular event, as compared to patients with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus who had taken hydroxychloroquine in the past.
Researchers found that patients who had recently discontinued use of the drug at least 90 days prior to their cardiovascular event, as well as individuals who discontinued the medication at least one year prior to the date of their cardiovascular event, had similar risks to patients who had never used hydroxychloroquine.
“This may suggest a loss of benefits after a person stops taking hydroxychloroquine,” Aviña-Zubieta said. “This finding could play an important role in a patient’s decision to continue using the drug long-term.”
Systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis are chronic, systemic inflammatory diseases. Both are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial medication, is commonly used to treat both diseases.
“Given the increased risk for these serious and potentially life-threatening complications, this research is an important step in improving quality of care for patients living with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis,” Aviña-Zubieta said.
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