Cardiovascular events in U.S. RA patients fall to non-RA level



– U.S. patients with rheumatoid arthritis stopped having an excess of cardiovascular disease events during the 2000s.

During both the 1980s and 1990s, patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) residing in a 27-county region in southeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin had cardiovascular disease event rates that were more than twice the rates in similar adults without RA, but that changed during the 2000s, Elena Myasoedova, MD, said in a poster she presented at the European Congress of Rheumatology. During 2000-2009, RA patients enrolled in the Rochester (Minn.) Epidemiology Project had an incidence of cardiovascular disease events at a rate that was 12% lower, compared with matched adults without RA who were also enrolled in the same regional database, reported Dr. Myasoedova, a rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and her associates.

“We hypothesize that improved management of RA, including implementation of a treat-to-target strategy and the introduction of biological drugs could have influenced this, as well as increased awareness of and improved prevention of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Myasoedova said in an interview. The findings “give us a hint that tight control of RA disease activity is also likely to help cardiovascular disease burden.”

She and her associates identified 906 people enrolled in the Rochester Epidemiology Project who had incident RA based on the 1987 criteria of the American College of Rheumatology and matched them by age, sex, and index year with 905 people in the registry without RA. These cohorts included roughly 200 people from each subgroup tracked during the 1980s, 300 from each subgroup tracked during the 1990s, and about 400 in each subgroup tracked during the 2000s. They averaged about 56 years old, and about two-thirds were women.

During the 1980s, the cumulative incidence of nonfatal MI, nonfatal stroke, or cardiovascular disease (CVD) death was 2.11-fold more common among the RA patients than in the matched controls without RA, and during the 1990s this ratio showed a 2.13-fold excess of CVD events among the RA patients. The between-group differences in both decades were statistically significant. During the 2000s, the RA patients actually had a nominally lower rate of CVD events, at 0.88 times the rate of the controls, a difference that was not statistically significant.

Dr. Myasoedova and her associates had previously reported a similar finding in an analysis that used a smaller number of people and focused exclusively on rates of CVD (J Rheumatol. 2017 Jun;44[6]:732-9).

A few factors limit the generalizability of the finding, Dr. Myasoedova cautioned. First, the population studied was about 90% white. Also, people in the Rochester Epidemiology Project receive their medical care from clinicians at the Mayo Clinic or an affiliated hospital in the region covered by the Project.

“These data are from a large, tertiary care center,” and so the findings are most directly applicable to patients who receive medical care in a similar setting that provides guideline-directed management of both RA and CVD risk.

A long-standing hypothesis is that CVD has an inflammatory component. These data support that concept by suggesting that when inflammatory disease is well controlled in RA patients, their CVD risk drops, Dr. Myasoedova said. “CVD has been seen as the number one comorbidity for RA patients, and it remains that way, but it’s very reassuring that the CVD rate has improved. It shows we’re doing something right.”

The study received no commercial funding. Dr. Myasoedova had no relevant disclosures.

SOURCE: Myasoedova E et al. Ann Rheum Dis. Jun 2019;78(Suppl 2):1024-5. Abstract FRI0654. DOI: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2019-eular.4996.

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