Premature death has been long recognised as a manifestation of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Three lines of evidence can explain why patients with RA die prematurely and why the mortality gap between patients with RA and the general population appears to widening. First, patients with RA have a higher risk of several serious comorbid conditions and they tend to experience worse outcomes after the occurrence of these illnesses. Second, patients with RA do not appear to receive optimal primary or secondary preventive care. And third, the systemic inflammation and immune dysfunction associated with RA appears to promote and accelerate comorbidity and mortality. This paper provides a brief summary and interpretation of the data underlying these findings. Together, these results provide a compelling argument in favour of a focused research programme aimed specifically at eliminating premature death in patients with RA.
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Funding: This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health: R01 AR46849 and AR-30582.
Competing interests: None.