Statins may slow untreatable, progressive stage of multiple sclerosis
Researchers have suggested that simvastatin, a cheap cholesterol lowering drug, might be a potential treatment option for the secondary progressive, or chronic, stage of multiple sclerosis (MS), which is currently untreatable.
Findings from the MS-STAT trial showed that a high, daily dose of simvastatin was safe, well tolerated, and slowed brain atrophy (shrinkage) by 43 per cent over two years compared with placebo. Longitudinal studies suggest that atrophy progression is linked with disability.
In its early stages, MS is characterised by intermittent neurological symptoms, called relapsing-remitting MS. Within 10 to 15 years, more than half of patients develop secondary progressive MS, a steady worsening of symptoms and increase in disability.
To investigate the potential of simvastatin in the progressive stage of MS, the MS-STAT trial randomly assigned 140 people with secondary progressive MS (aged 18-65 years) to receive either 80 mg of simvastatin or placebo for 2 years.
Analysis of pre-treatment and post-treatment brain MRI scans showed a reduction in the average atrophy rate to 0.3 per cent a year with simvastatin, a 43 per cent reduction (when adjusted for factors such as age and gender) compared with placebo. Additionally, small but significant improvements were noted in both a doctor (EDSS) and patient-reported (MSIS-29) disability scale.
Simvastatin was generally well tolerated and serious adverse events were similar between the two groups (20 per cent placebo vs 13 per cent simvastatin).
The study has been published in the Lancet.
(Posted on 19-03-2014)