Oral Contraceptive Use Does Not Increase Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk

Study results show that although the use of oral contraceptives has no effect on the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, it may prevent the disease from progressing in severity.

Researchers recently published results from a systematic review and meta-analysis based on observational studies that was designed to assess whether and to what extent there exists a link between oral contraceptive use (OC) and the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The study, published in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, evaluated data from 28 other studies. In the data, the authors noted that in case-controlled studies “the risk of RA of ever, current and past OC users was 0.69 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.53-0.89), 0.71 (95% CI, 0.48-1.06) and 0.67 (95% CI, 0.44-1.01), compared to that of never OC users.”

In prospective studies the odds ratios for ever, current, and past users of the contraceptives was 1.00 (95%CI, 0.87-1.15) 0.93 (95% CI, 0.70-1.23) and 0.93 (95% CI, 0.78-1.12).

“A cumulative meta-analysis showed that the pooled ORs moved to the midline with an increase in sample size as years passed,” the authors noted.

The results also showed a link between patients who took the contraceptives and the severity of their RA symptoms (OR, 0.41; 95% CI, 0.22-0.78.)

While there is more research to be done the authors said there were some good results from their work. “OC use has no protective effect on RA onset, but appears to prevent progression to severe RA,” they said.

In the end the authors said they could not find a “cumulative effect” between patients taking oral contraceptives and their risk of being diagnosed with RA.