The effect of pharmacological therapy on the cardiovascular system of patients with systemic rheumatic diseases

Fabiola Atzeni, Maurizio Turiel, Roberto Caporali, Lorenzo Cavagna, Livio Tomasoni, Simona Sitia, Piercarlo Sarzi-Puttini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The higher mortality rate among rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients in comparison with the general population is largely attributable to cardiovascular (CV) disease, particularly coronary atherosclerosis, but also non-fatal myocardial infarction and heart failure. It may be due to RA-specific risk factors such as hyperhomocysteinemia, disease-related dyslipidemia or vascular inflammation, or morbidity related to high levels of cytokines such as tumour necrosis factor (TNF) and RA medications.Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are among the most important in rheumatology, but many are associated with CV disease. A number of randomised control trials have shown that, although exposure to low doses of corticosteroids for 1-3. years does not significantly increase CV risk, longer exposure can increase CV events. The use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), particularly methotrexate, increases homocysteinemia, reduces inflammation and improves lipid profiles, thus reducing the development of atherosclerosis and clinically overt CVD. Although contraindicated in RA patients with severe heart failure, biological agents such as anti-TNF agents delay and even reverse the progression of endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerosis. Tocilizumab leads to changes in lipid profiles without increasing adverse vascular events.The effects on the CV system depend on the drug itself, the dose and the period of exposure, and so CV risk should be evaluated before starting treatment with any drug.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)835-839
Number of pages5
JournalAutoimmunity Reviews
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


  • Anti-TNF agents
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Biological agents
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs
  • Mortality
  • Tocilizumab

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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