Oral contraceptives may improve inflammatory arthritis outcomes

Woman holding card of contraceptive pills

Taking oral contraceptives (OCs) may benefit women who have inflammatory arthritis, according to research published in Arthritis Care and Research
on 17 August 2015. 

Some 273 women with early inflammatory arthritis aged 18–60 years were recruited. Of that number, 18% had never used OCs, 63% had used them in the past and 19% were currently using them. None of the women had ever used hormone replacement therapy. 

Researchers then scored the women — at 12-month and 24-month intervals — to discover how well they functioned, what their mood was like and how active their disease was. They found that women who used or had used OCs had better scores on a number of indices – the Rheumatoid Arthritis Impact of Disease (RAID) scores; the Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease Activity Index (RADAI); the Profile of Mood and Discomfort (PROFAD); and the Hannover Functional Assessment (FFbH). 

At 12 months, the scores for the two groups that were using OCs or had in the past were better than for the group that had never used OCs. At 24 months, the RAID results for women who had used or were using OCs were “significantly better” than for women who had never used OCs. 

“For past as well as current use, OCs seem to moderate patient-reported outcomes in inflammatory arthritis. Protective effects may be induced via central nervous pathways rather than through the suppression of peripheral inflammation,” the researchers write. 

But they cautioned: “The positive effects of past or current OC use on patient-reported outcomes within the first two years after the onset of inflammatory arthritis may be explained by long lasting programming of central nervous system function. This association needs to be confirmed in further studies before any clinical conclusion can be drawn.” 


[1] Albrecht K, Callhoff J, Buttgereit F et al. The association between the use of oral contraceptives and patient-reported outcomes in an early arthritis cohort. Arthritis Care and Research 2015. doi:10.1002/acr.22667.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Oral contraceptives may improve inflammatory arthritis outcomes;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20069203

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