Arthritis Drugs May Keep Diabetes at Bay

TNF inhibitors for rheumatoid arthritis may lower risk of diabetes

June 23, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Even if a drug was meant to fight one disease, it often happens that the drug can protect patients against other health problems. This seems to be the case with some arthritis drugs.

Researchers found that certain drugs for fighting rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis may lower the risk of diabetes. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis - two diseases that happen when the body's immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign invaders - can make patients resistant to insulin, putting them at risk for diabetes.

"Some arthritis drugs may protect against diabetes."

Because there is this relationship between these diseases, researchers wanted to see if rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis drugs - called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) - had any effect on a patient's risk of getting diabetes.

Daniel H. Solomon, M.D., M.P.H., from Brigham and Women's Hospital, and colleagues found that patients taking the DMARDs such as Humira (TNF inhibitors) and Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) were less likely to get diabetes, compared to patients taking other DMARDs.

While these findings are promising, the authors warn that this study should not be considered proof that these drugs always lower the risk of diabetes. However, they add, it can be considered a starting point for future research. This study, combined with past findings, shows that certain DMARDs should be studied further in order to see if they can protect patients with inflammatory disorders from diabetes.

To come to these findings, Dr. Solomon and colleagues studied 13,905 patients who had been diagnosed with either rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis.

The researchers separated the patients into four categories according to the drugs they were taking: (1) TNF inhibitors with or without other DMARDs; (2) methotrexate (sold as Rheumatrex) without TNF inhibitors or hydroxychloroquine; (3) hydroxychloroquine without TNF inhibitors or methotrexate; or (4) other nonbiologic DMARDs without TNF inhibitors, hydroxychloroquine, or methotrexate.

Throughout the course of the study, the researchers saw 267 new cases of diabetes. Diabetes was most common among patients who were taking nonbiologic DMARDs. Diabetes was least common among those taking TNF inhibitors.

The studied was supported by a grant from Amgen awarded to Dr. Solomon, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 22, 2011
Last Updated:
August 23, 2011