A new study has shown that the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis may be reduced by taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.
In a survey that involved around two million patients, it was found that 40% lowered their chances of being diagnosed with the disease by taking statins.
The Israeli scientists who worked on the study found that the development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may be prevented because statins affect the signalling pathways to the immune system.
Around 350,000 people in the UK suffer with RA, in which the body's defences attack the joints, causing pain and disability.
Data was collected on 1.8 million members of the Maccabi Healthcare Services, an Israeli health maintenance organisation.
Over an average follow up period of five years, 2,578 patients developed RA and 17,878 were affected by osteoarthritis, a more common joint condition not caused by the immune system.
After adjusting for factors that might have affected the results, patients who regularly took statins were found to have a 42% reduced risk of RA compared with those not taking the drugs.
Statins were associated with only a small short-term reduction in the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
The authors, led by Dr Gabriel Chodick, from Maccabi Health Services and Tel Aviv University, wrote in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine: "The present study demonstrates a significant negative association between persistence with statin therapy and RA onset, particularly in adult patients who began treatment at a relatively young age and with high efficacy statins."