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Statins may be useful for systemic sclerosis manifestations

Reuters Health • The Doctor's Channel Daily Newscast

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The results of a randomized trial suggest that statins may be a useful treatment for Raynaud’s phenomenon and digital ulcers that can accompany systemic sclerosis.

These manifestations involve disturbances in vascular structure and function, according to the report in the August 15th issue of The Journal of Rheumatology. Prior research has shown that statins have various effects that may retard vascular injury.

The current study, conducted by Dr. Anna Abou-Raya, from the University of Alexandria, Egypt, and colleagues, involved 84 systemic sclerosis patients with Raynaud’s phenomenon that failed to response to vasodilator therapy. The subjects were randomized to receive atorvastatin 40 mg/day or placebo for 4 months.

The main outcome measure was the number of digital ulcers, the report indicates. In addition, a number of standard tests were used to assess pain, function, and overall health.

Atorvastatin therapy was associated with a significant reduction in digital ulcers relative to placebo use, the authors note. With the active agent, 1.6 new ulcers developed on average, whereas 2.5 arose with placebo.

Statin treatment was also linked to significant improvements in disability status, disease severity, pain, and overall health. It was also associated with a significant improvement in endothelial markers of activation, the investigators note.

“Given the essential role of statins in preserving vascular structure and function, they may be of clinical benefit in these patients, and may aid in treatment of Raynaud’s phenomenon and digital ulcers associated with systemic sclerosis,” the researchers conclude. “Larger scale studies are needed in heterogenous populations, as well as within different climates.”

J Rheumatol 2008;35:1801-1808.