Statins are a class of drug used to lower cholesterol.
The anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects of the drug has led to it being studied as a potential treatment for multiple sclerosis.
Trials of simvastatin and atorvastatin in combination with beta interferon for people with relapsing remitting MS showed no added benefit in reducing the relapse rate or measures of disability from beta interferon treatment alone.
The phase II MS-STAT1 trial found that simvastatin reduced the rate of brain tissue loss (atrophy) in people with secondary progressive MS. 140 people with secondary progressive MS took either high dose simvastatin (80mg/day) or placebo for two years. The level of brain tissue loss was 43% lower in the simvastatin group. For more details of this study see Research Update.
A phase III study (MS-STAT2) will investigate this further in a larger group of people. The researchers aim to recruit 1180 participants with SPMS at study centres in the UK who will take either simvastatin (80mg/day) or placebo for 3 years. This dose of simvastatin is at the top end of the dose range normally recommended for lowering blood levels of cholesterol. The main measure of progression will be an increase in EDSS which lasts for 6 months or more. Participants will also be monitored for other measures of MS progression and will be asked to complete questionnaires to measure the impact of MS on their day-to-day living.
Originally due to start in summer 2017, the trial is now reported to be beginning late in 2017 or early in 2018. You can register your interest in taking part on the MS Society website.
Common side effects of statins can include nosebleeds or a runny or blocked nose, sore throat, headache, nausea or digestive problems. People with liver problems should not take statins, nor should pregnant or breastfeeding women. Statins can interact with a number of other medications including some antibiotics which can lead to muscle damage. Grapefruit juice can increase the risk of experiencing side effects.
- American Journal of Health System Pharmacy 2012;69(17):1494-1499. Summary Efficacy of statins in combination with interferon therapy in multiple sclerosis: a meta-analysis.
- The Lancet 2014;383(9936):2213–2221. Full article Effect of high-dose simvastatin on brain atrophy and disability in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS-STAT): a randomised, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial.
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011;(12):CD008386. Full article Statins for multiple sclerosis.
Last updated: December 2017
Last updated: May 2017
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