October 27, 2011

Statin Therapy Ineffective for Lupus

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Women with lupus are 50 times more likely to have a heart attack; and all lupus patients are eight times more likely to develop premature coronary heart disease than the general population.

Statins, a class of drug used to lower cholesterol, have been shown to reduce arthrosclerosis progression in adults, but have not been investigated in a pediatric lupus population.

Atherosclerosis is a build-up of plaque in the arterial wall which can lead to heart attack and stroke. It is a long-term complication of lupus in both adult and children.

Results of a recent study, published in Arthritis and Rheumatism, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), show that therapy using Atorvastin, commonly known as Lipitor, was ineffective in reducing atherosclerosis progression in children and adolescents with systemic lupus ertyhematosus (SLE).

An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 children in the U.S. have lupus (Lehman 1996). Studies show that children with SLE have more severe organ damage, and longer exposure to illness and potentially toxic treatment compared with adults.

"The prognosis for pediatric lupus patients has significantly improved over the last few decades, however diagnosis at an earlier age subjects these patients to greater cardiovascular risk from systemic disease activity and treatment side effects over a longer time period," explained lead investigator Dr. Laura Schanberg, Department of Pediatrics, Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Prevalence of atherosclerosis in pediatric SLE is unknown, but precursors of the disease such as thickening of arterial walls have been reported.

The study, called the APPLE Trial, assessed 36-month therapy with Lipitor in patients between 10 and 21 years old.

"Our results demonstrate no significant effect on progression of atherosclerosis in children and adolescent with SLE who were treated with atorvastatin use over the 3-year period," concluded Dr. Christy Sandborg, co-investigator of the trial from Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

While statins proved ineffective in reducing progression of atherosclerosis, Lipitor was determined to be safe and well tolerated.

SOURCE: Arthritis & Rheumatism, published online Thursday October 27, 2011