Drugs Used for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Psoriasis May Also Lower Risk of Diabetes

Recent studies have shown that TNF inhibitors and hydroxychloroquine may also reduce the risk of diabetes in people.

Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis are treated by certain medications that suppress the functions of the immune system, but a new discovery has revealed even more about the immunosuppressant drugs. Recent studies have shown that these drugs, known as TNF inhibitors and hydroxychloroquine, may also reduce the risk of diabetes in people who have at least one of these conditions, thanks to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Patients with one of the two conditions who were given the TNF inhibitors had a 38 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the course of the six-month study. Also, those who received hydroxychloroquine for rheumatoid arthritis had a 46 percent lower risk.

Both rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis are inflammatory conditions and since inflammation plays a role in insulin resistance and diabetes, the findings make sense biologically.

These two drugs possess the potential to fight diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity that allows blood sugar (glucose) to be quickly pulled out of the bloodstream. Hydroxychloroquine could even reduce insulin metabolism so the hormones stay in the blood for a longer period of time, which gives it more time to move the glucose.

While these new findings are promising, Dr. Daniel H. Solomon, the lead author of the study, would not say that the drugs would prevent type 2 diabetes in high-risk people who do not have rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or control the disease in diabetics. TNF inhibitors are extremely expensive, contain potentially serious side effects and may not even be appropriate for all rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis patients who are at high risk for diabetes. On the other hand, hydroxychloroquine is safer but is considered by many experts as a weak drug for treating rheumatoid arthritis.

In the study, Solomon and his colleagues analyzed data on nearly 14,000 people with rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis and roughly 2 percent of the participants were diagnosed with diabetes over the course of the study. Each of the patients were followed until they were diagnosed with diabetes or until they switched drugs, something that rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis patients often do.

The overall results of the study only revealed an association with the drugs and conditions as opposed to cause and effect. Randomized control trials will be needed to confirm the results due to the large about of variables that could throw off the credibility of the experiment.

Still, the findings could ultimately lead to new drugs that fight diabetes in ways different from injectable insulin or non-insulin diabetes drugs.

Around the Web

Drugs for psoriasis, arthritis may lower diabetes risk [CNN]

Association Between Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs and Diabetes Risk in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis and Psoriasis [Journal of the American Medial Association]