Autoantibodies recognizing 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR) are found in patients with statin-associated immune-mediated necrotizing myopathy and, less commonly, in statin-unexposed patients with autoimmune myopathy. The main objective of this study was to define the association of anti-HMGCR antibody levels with disease activity.
Anti-HMGCR levels, creatine kinase (CK) levels, and strength were assessed in anti-HMGCR–positive patients. Associations of antibody level with CK level and strength at visit 1 were analyzed in 55 patients, 40 of whom were exposed to statins. In 12 statin-exposed and 5 statin-unexposed patients with serum from 5 serial visits, the evolution of antibody levels, CK levels, and strength was investigated.
Antibody levels were associated with CK levels (P < 0.001), arm strength (P < 0.05), and leg strength (P < 0.05) at visit 1, but these associations were only significant among statin-exposed patients in stratified analyses. With immunosuppressive treatment over 26.2 ± 12.6 months (mean ± SD), antibody levels declined (P < 0.05) and arm abduction strength improved (P < 0.05) in the 17 patients followed up longitudinally. The separate analysis showed that statin-exposed patients developed decreased antibody levels (P < 0.01), decreased CK levels (P < 0.001), improved arm strength (P < 0.05), and improved hip flexion strength (P < 0.05) with treatment. Anti-HMGCR antibody levels did not normalize in any patient.
In the entire cohort, initial anti-HMGCR levels correlated with indicators of disease activity; with immunosuppressive treatment, antibody levels declined and arm strength improved. Statin-exposed patients had significant improvements in CK levels and strength whereas statin-unexposed patients did not, suggesting a phenotypic difference between statin-exposed and statin-unexposed anti-HMGCR–positive patients.