Achieving sustained minimal disease activity in psoriatic arthritis could slow or prevent the progression of carotid atherosclerosis and arterial stiffness, new research suggests.

Medical form with diagnosis psoriatic arthritis on a table. designer491/iStock/Getty Images

A prospective cohort study, published online Aug. 25 in Arthritis & Rheumatology, involved 90 patients with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) who were followed for at least 24 months. High-resolution carotid ultrasound and arterial stiffness markers were assessed annually.

Overall, 57 patients (63%) achieved minimal disease activity (MDA) – defined as meeting five or more cutoffs for seven domains of disease activity – at 1 year of follow-up, 69% achieved it by 2 years, and 46% sustained MDA from the 1-year follow-up to the 2-year follow-up.

The 41 patients who sustained MDA over the follow-up points showed significantly lower odds of progression of atherosclerotic carotid plaques (odds ratio = 0.273; P = .024). They were also significantly less likely to show increases in total carotid plaque area, increased intima-media thickness, or increased measures of arterial stiffness. The researchers also noted a trend toward improvements in pulse wave velocity in this group.

Patients who achieved sustained MDA had lower disease activity at baseline, and a higher proportion of them were already in a state of MDA at baseline, compared with the group of patients who did not achieved sustained MDA.

Sustained MDA appeared to be key to reducing atherosclerosis, as researchers did not see any significant differences in measures of arterial stiffness between those who achieved MDA – sustained or otherwise – at 2 years and those who did not, after adjusting for baseline differences and use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

“The most important finding in this study is that long-term control of inflammation is important in preventing progression of subclinical atherosclerosis and arterial stiffness, independent of traditional CV risk factors,” wrote Isaac T. Cheng of Prince of Wales Hospital at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and his coauthors. “These data suggest that low stable disease activity over a prolonged period of time may have a significant protective effect against CVD in PsA compared with those patients with intermittent flare-ups.”

The study also looked at treatment effect. More patients treated with biologic DMARDs achieved MDA, but the researchers saw no association between the use of conventional synthetic DMARDs and the likelihood of achieving MDA.

They noted that the protective effects of achieving sustained MDA seemed to be independent of biologic DMARDs, “suggesting that controlling disease activity using various combinations of conventional and biological DMARD may be useful in improving CV risk in these patients.”

However, the investigators noted that the study was conducted in Hong Kong, where biologics are not reimbursed by the government. Patients in the study had to pay for these medications themselves, and some could not afford them.

They raised the possibility that early initiation with biologic DMARDs might further improve cardiovascular outcomes, but said this needed to be addressed in future studies.

“These data support the EULAR recommendation that disease activity should be controlled optimally in order to lower CVD risk in patients with PsA,” the authors wrote. “Data from the current study confirm that using a treat-to-target strategy, MDA is indeed an achievable target even in a health care system with resource constrain.”

The Health and Medical Research Fund supported the study. No conflicts of interest were declared.

SOURCE: Cheng I et al. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2018 Aug 25. doi: 10.1002/art.40695.