Inflammation predicts risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) events, but the relation of drugs that directly target inflammation with CVD risk is not established. Methotrexate is a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug broadly used for the treatment of chronic inflammatory disorders. A systematic review and meta-analysis of evidence of relations of methotrexate with CVD occurrence were performed. Cohorts, case-control studies, and randomized trials were included if they reported associations between methotrexate and CVD risk. Inclusions and exclusions were independently adjudicated, and all data were extracted in duplicate. Pooled effects were calculated using inverse variance-weighted meta-analysis. Of 694 identified publications, 10 observational studies in which methotrexate was administered in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or polyarthritis met the inclusion criteria. Methotrexate was associated with a 21% lower risk for total CVD (n = 10 studies, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.73 to 0.87, p <0.001) and an 18% lower risk for myocardial infarction (n = 5, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.96, p = 0.01), without evidence for statistical between-study heterogeneity (p = 0.30 and p = 0.33, respectively). Among prespecified sources of heterogeneity explored, stronger associations were observed in studies that adjusted for underlying disease severity (relative risk 0.64, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.96, p <0.01) and for other concomitant medication (relative risk 0.73, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.84, p <0.001). Publication bias was potentially evident (funnel plot, Begg's test, p = 0.06); excluding studies with extreme risk estimates did not, however, alter results (relative risk 0.81, 95% CI 0.74 to 0.89). In conclusion, methotrexate use is associated with a lower risk for CVD in patients with chronic inflammation. These findings suggest that a direct treatment of inflammation may reduce CVD risk.
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