AS Medication Didn't Change Heart Risks

TNF inhibitors for ankylosing spondylitis did not improve arterial stiffness or change cardiovascular risks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) A long term disease named Ankylosing Spondylitis has been linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular problems. A number of factors could be responsible for this increased risk, including the drugs used to treat this painful condition.

Recent findings showed that a specific class of drugs improved disease activity and disability in patients with ankylosing spondylitis, a disease that involves inflammation of the joints between the spinal bones.

As an added bonus, these drugs did not appear to boost the risk of cardiovascular problems.

"Learn about the side effects of your Rx."

Multiple factors can be blamed for the increased cardiovascular risk associated with ankylosing spondylitis, said Dr. Sylvain Mathieu of CHU Clermont-Ferrand in France and colleagues in background information to their study.

These factors include disease activity, inflammation, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

Dr. Mathieu and colleagues set out to see if a certain class of drugs - called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors - had an effect on arterial stiffness (hardening of blood vessels) and other cardiovascular risk factors.

The researchers did not see any changes to arterial stiffness after 6 or 12 months of treatment.

In addition, TNF inhibitor treatment did not change patients' cholesterol levels, blood fat levels or other cardiovascular risk factors.

On top of these unchanged cardiovascular risks, patients taking TNF inhibitors experienced great improvements in:

  • Inflammation
  • Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Index (BASDAI) - a scale of one through 10 in which one means no problem and 10 means the worst problem
  • Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Functional Index (BASFI) - a measure of disability in ankylosing spondylitis

According to the authors, arterial stiffness did not improve after treatment with TNF inhibitors. However, treatment reduced inflammation and disease activity without increasing cholesterol, blood fats or traditional cardiovascular risk factors, they concluded.

The size of this study was small - with only 49 participants, 30 of whom were men. A total of 20 patients (40.8 percent) were smokers, while 10 were treated for high blood pressure (hypertension).

Particpants were treated with one of three TNF inhibitors: Enbrel (etanercept), Humira (adalimumab) and Remicade (infliximab).

In light of the size of the study, more research is needed to verify these results.

The authors did not disclose potential conflicts of interest.

The research was published October 13 in Rheumatology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 17, 2012
Last Updated:
October 30, 2012