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Women with lupus have a higher risk for preeclampsia

DMARD use rare in pregnancy; may pose slight preeclampsia risk

New research reports that women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have a two-fold increase in risk of preeclampsia—a dangerous condition in which pregnant women develop high blood pressure (hypertension) and protein in their urine (proteinuria) after 20 weeks of gestation.

According to the findings published in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), use of Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) during pregnancy was rare in the study population, but women who did use these medications show a statistically non-significant increase in preeclampsia risk. The risk could be explained by the severity of autoimmune disease among DMARD users.

Patients with autoimmune diseases such as SLE and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are typically treated with DMARDs to prevent disease flares. DMARDs are a class of medications that treat the underlying autoimmune disease, not just symptoms of these diseases, and include: methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall); anti-malarial drugs such as hydroxycholorquine (Plaquenil); and biologics such as etanercept (Enbrel) or adalimumab (Humira).

"Understanding how DMARD use impacts women with autoimmune disease is important, especially during pregnancy, as previous research found that women with SLE had at least a two-fold increase in preeclampsia risk and women with RA had a two-fold increase of this severe pregnancy complication," said lead author Kristin Palmsten from Harvard School of Public Health.

To compare risk of preeclampsia in DMARD users, researchers used the British Columbia healthcare utilization database to identify 306,831 pregnancies in 224,827 women with and without autoimmune disease. Women who filled a prescription for DMARDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or corticosteroids before pregnancy were considered "past users" and those who filled these prescriptions both before and during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy were designated "continuous users."

Results show that pregnant women in this study had a median age of 30 years, with 0.3% of women diagnosed with RA or psoriasis; 0.2% with inflammatory bowel disease (IBS); 0.1% with SLE, and another 0.1% with multiple sclerosis (MS). Within this cohort, researchers found that 1,226 (0.4%) women used a DMARD in the year prior to pregnancy, while only 414 (0.1%) women used DMARDs while pregnant. The occurrence of preeclampsia in past DMARD, steroid, NSAIDs users was 2.3%, 2.7%, and 2.9%, respectively.

Further analysis indicates that a continuous DMARD user was at greater risk of preeclampsia (relative risk (RR) =2.29; not statistically significant) compared to past DMARD users. Preeclampsia risk was greater in women with SLE (RR=2.02) compared to women without an autoimmune disease. Restricting the analysis to women with autoimmune diseases weakened the preeclampsia relative risk in DMARD users.

Ms. Palmsten concludes, "Our findings uphold previous evidence, showing that women with SLE had twice the risk of developing preeclampsia. The statistically non-significant increase in preeclampsia risk found for DMARDs was reduced when we more fully accounted for the potential effect of the autoimmune diseases, suggesting that the underlying disease or severity of the disease was likely contributing to the increased risk of preeclampsia among DMARD users." The authors advise that further studies are needed to confirm their findings, and research should focus on DMARD use and preeclampsia in women with specific autoimmune diseases.

This study is published in Arthritis Care & Research. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact

Full citation: "Use of Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs During Pregnancy and Risk of Preeclampsia." Kristin Palmsten, Sonia Hernández-Díaz, Bindee Kuriya, Daniel Solomon and Soko Setoguchi. Arthritis Care and Research; Published Online: October 29, 2012 (DOI: 10.1002/acr.21807).


Author Contact: To arrange an interview with Ms. Palmsten, please contact Todd Datz from the Office of Communications at HSPH at

About the Journal:

Arthritis Care & Research is an official journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), and the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP), a division of the College. Arthritis Care & Research is a peer-reviewed research publication that publishes both original research and review articles that promote excellence in the clinical practice of rheumatology. Relevant to the care of individuals with arthritis and related disorders, major topics are evidence-based practice studies, clinical problems, practice guidelines, health care economics, health care policy, educational, social, and public health issues, and future trends in rheumatology practice. The journal is published by Wiley on behalf of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). For more information, please visit

About Wiley

Founded in 1807, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. has been a valued source of information and understanding for more than 200 years, helping people around the world meet their needs and fulfill their aspirations. Wiley and its acquired companies have published the works of more than 450 Nobel laureates in all categories: Literature, Economics, Physiology or Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, and Peace.

Wiley is a global provider of content and content-enabled workflow solutions in areas of scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly research; professional development; and education. Our core businesses produce scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, reference works, books, database services, and advertising; professional books, subscription products, certification and training services and online applications; and education content and services including integrated online teaching and learning resources for undergraduate and graduate students and lifelong learners. Wiley's global headquarters are located in Hoboken, New Jersey, with operations in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada, and Australia. The Company's Web site can be accessed at The Company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbols JWa and JWb.

Media Advisory

2012 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting Press Registration Now Open.

What: Press registration is now open to journalists planning to attend the 2012 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting

Where: Walter E. Washington Convention Center; Washington, D.C.

When: November 10 - 14, 2012

Policies: Please make sure to review our press guidelines as they may impact your ability to receive press credentials

Registration: To register for a press pass, please visit

Key dates:

Press registration closed: Monday, October 29, 2012
Press conference schedule announced: September
On-site Newsroom opens: Saturday, November 10, 2012
Opening Lecture/Embargo lifts: 4:30 PM Eastern Time on Saturday, November 10, 2012

Contact: Suzanne Forte,, 404-633-3777

Headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., the American College of Rheumatology is an international professional medical society that represents more than 8,500 rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals. Rheumatologists are internists or pediatricians who are qualified by training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. Over 50 million Americans - including nearly 300,000 children - suffer from the painful, disabling and sometimes fatal effects of arthritis and rheumatic diseases. The ACR's mission is to advance rheumatology. Learn more by visiting or follow ACR on Twitter at

Dawn Peters | EurekAlert!
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