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By Amanda Gardner

TUESDAY, June 21, 2011 ( — Drugs that treat and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by suppressing the immune system may also reduce the risk of developing diabetes, at least in people who already have one of these conditions, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Compared to those taking other drugs (such as cyclosporine), patients with psoriasis or RA who were prescribed one of several drugs in a class known as the TNF inhibitors had a 38% lower risk of developing over the course of the six-month study. Those who were prescribed hydroxychloroquine, a drug that has been used for decades to fight malaria and is also used for RA, had a 46% lower risk.

"If you're going to give an immunosuppressant [drug] anyway, it may be that these specific drugs have an added benefit of reducing the risk of future diabetes," says the lead author of the study, Daniel H. Solomon, MD, an associate professor of rheumatology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston.

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