Study finds that cholesterol-lowering medication may slow knee joint damage

Monash University

A recent trial by Monash University into the effects of cholesterol-lowering medication (statins) on knee osteoarthritis has found that whilst not an effective treatment for that condition, had the added benefit of slowing the progression of knee joint damage.

The exciting secondary discovery of the randomised placebo-controlled trial found that statins slowed the progression of knee damage and participants with healthier knee joints were less likely to develop bone marrow lesions, often an early indicator of knee abnormalities associated with pain and joint damage.

The findings have now been published in the American College of Rheumatology journal.

Lead author and rheumatologist Professor Flavia Cicuttini from the Monash University School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine says that statins are commonly used to prevent conditions such as atherosclerosis, a condition caused by a build-up of plaque in the arteries. This can result in heart attacks, strokes and also result in damage to knee joints through reduced blood supply.

“Based on the findings from the healthier subgroup in our trial, it may be that the widespread use of statins in the management of cardiovascular disease is also having a benefit on knees by protecting them from knee joint damage,” Professor Cicuttini said.

Knee osteoarthritis is a common cause of knee pain in those aged over 40. There is currently no treatment to slow its progression so as their condition worsens, patients may require knee replacements.

“Often knee pain can be a warning sign of other potential health issues. If you’re experiencing knee pain, then see your GP. Get your blood pressure, weight and cholesterol checked. Having knee pain can be an opportunity to do a health check that will benefit knees, as well as general health since those with osteoarthritis, are at twice the risk of heart disease.” said Professor Cicuttini.

Read the full paper in the American College of Rheumatology journal titled: Effect of Atorvastatin on Knee Cartilage Volume in Patients With Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis: Results From a Randomised Placebo-Controlled Trial. DOI: 10.1002/art.41760

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