Scientists are hopeful a major drug trial will establish that statins can be used to treat multiple sclerosis.
The low-cost drugs are typically prescribed to help lower levels of “bad cholesterol” associated with raised risk of a heart attack or stroke, but they have also shown “incredible promise” for the treatment of MS.
A small study – involving 140 people – published in the Lancet in 2014 on patients with secondary progressive MS, found those taking high doses of simvastatin had a significant reduction in the rate of brain atrophy over two years and also had better disability scores at the end of study.
The new trial will be much larger, involving 1,180 people, and will aim to establish whether the drug can slow disability progression. The £6m project has funding from the National Institute for Health Research, the charities MS Society UK and National MS Society (US), as well as from the NHS and British universities.
Dr Jeremy Chataway, of the UCL Institute of Neurology, who led the 2014 trial, will also be at the helm for the new study.
He said: “This drug [simvastatin] holds incredible promise for the thousands of people living with secondary progressive MS in the UK, and around the world, who currently have few options for treatments that have an effect on disability.
“This study will establish definitively whether simvastatin is able to slow the rate of disability progression over a three-year period, and we are very hopeful it will.”
More than 100,000 people in the UK have MS, which attacks the central nervous system. Symptoms usually start when a person is in their 20s and 30s and it affects almost three times as many women as men. It can be painful and exhausting and can cause problems with walking, moving, thought, memory and emotions. [more]