(HealthDay News) – Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are at higher risk of death from cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular causes if they discontinue statin treatment.

Mary A. De Vera, PhD, from the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada in Vancouver, and colleagues analyzed data from 4,102 rheumatoid arthritis patients taking statins between 1996–2006. About 45% of patients discontinued statin treatment, defined by at least three months of persistent non-use at least once during study follow-up.

Over a follow-up of 16,144 person-years, the researchers identified 467 deaths, of which 198 were due to cardiovascular disease. After adjusting for possible confounding factors, they found that the hazard ratio for statin discontinuation and death was 1.6 for cardiovascular mortality and 1.79 for all-cause mortality. Age, sex, and timing of first statin prescription had no significant effect on the association.

“These population-based data indicate that statin discontinuation in rheumatoid arthritis patients is associated with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and all causes,” De Vera and colleagues conclude. “Findings provide support for the importance of compliance with therapy in rheumatoid arthritis patients who are prescribed statins.”

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