Newswise — The incidence of dementia in patients with rheumatoid arthritis is lower in patients receiving biologic or targeted synthetic disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) than in patients who receive conventional synthetic DMARDs, according to a new study. The study was presented at the virtual annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

“Being on a biologic or targeted synthetic DMARD actually decreased your risk of incidence of dementia by 17% compared to patients who were on a conventional synthetic DMARD only,” said lead study author Sebastian Sattui, MD, MS, a rheumatology fellow at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City. The study was done in collaboration with investigators from Weill Cornell Medicine and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Dr. Sattui said that the treatment in patients with rheumatoid arthritis has become more complex based on the understanding that rheumatoid arthritis has an impact well beyond what are thought of as the classical manifestations. Previous studies have suggested that inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can increase the risk for dementia and that TNF agents may have a role in preventing the incidence of dementia.

In the new study, researchers identified a cohort of patients with rheumatoid arthritis in Medicare claims data from 2006 to 2017. To be eligible, patients had to have continuous enrollment of at least 12 months in Medicare Part A, B and D, be at least 40 years of age and have no prior diagnosis of dementia.

In the sample of 141,326 eligible patients with rheumatoid arthritis, the crude incident rate of dementia was 2.0 per 100 person-years for patients on conventional synthetic DMARDs and 1.3 for patients on any biological DMARD. After adjusting for factors such as age, sex and other comorbidities, patients on biologic or targeted synthetic DMARDs had an adjusted 17% lower risk for dementia than patients on conventional synthetic DMARDs. No significant differences were observed between the different classes of biologic or targeted synthetic DMARDs, suggesting that decreased risk is possibly explained by the overall decrease in inflammation rather than a specific mechanism of action.

The researchers say clinicians should factor this new information into treatment decisions, but prospective studies are needed. “Our work shows yet another dimension in which treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can impact the overall health and quality of life of our patients,” said Dr. Sattui. “Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease and it can have cognitive implications. However, these complications seem to share similar pathways to those of articular disease, and the medications that we use to treat rheumatoid arthritis could be effective in the prevention of dementia in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Future studies need to assess the impact of the interventions, such as the treat-to-target strategy, on the incidence of dementia in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.”

About HSS

HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the 11th consecutive year), No. 4 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2020-2021), and named a leader in pediatric orthopedics by U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals” list (2020-2021). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has the lowest complication and readmission rates in the nation for orthopedics, and among the lowest infection rates. HSS was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. The global standard total knee replacement was developed at HSS in 1969. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State, as well as in Florida. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. The HSS Global Innovation Institute was formed in 2016 to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The HSS Education Institute is a trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal knowledge and research for physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, academic trainees, and consumers in more than 130 countries. Through HSS Global Ventures, the institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally.

Meeting Link: American College of Rheumatology