Statins May Slow MS

At last, there is a potential drug to treat multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that afflicts over 2.5 million people around the world. The drug happens to be simvastatin or simply statin, a cheap cholesterol-lowering pill.


UK scientists have come to this conclusion after conducting trials for years. The researchers now feel that the trials can be applied to higher level of MS.


In an article published Wednesday (March 19, 2014) in the online edition of The Lancet, authors Dr Jeremy Chataway et al (University College London) claimed a phase 2 trial suggests that statin pills have slowed brain shrinkage (atrophy) in people with multiple sclerosis.


According to researchers, the trail results have shown that a high dosage of simvastatin administered on a daily basis was well tolerated and safe. The treatment also slowed brain atrophy by at least 43 percent over two years.


Statin pills have also shown positive results in mouse models having MS. Reports suggest that the pills had earlier been tried, in combination with interferon beta or alone, in relapsing MS, with mixed results.


Interferon beta, which is produced by cells like mammalian, is a drug in the interferon family. It is used to treat MS.


Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, i.e. the immune system attacks itself. According to scientists like Dr. Emma Gray an individual’s T cells or immune cells mistake myelin for an alien foe and attack them, similar to an attack on a bacteria or a virus. T cells are a protective outside layer of the nerve cell fibers.


Dr. Gray is a research communications manager at the Multiple Sclerosis Society – UK, which is a charity that funds MS research.


Buoyed with the early success on statin trials, scientists from the University College London (UCL) are now planning for large-scale trials to see if statins help in slowing the disease progression.


Dr Jeremy Chataway et al had conducted the study at three centers in the UK and it was funded by a host of foundation sources and government in the UK. Interestingly, no pharmaceutical company was involved in the sponsorship of the study.

At least 140 people were involved in the study and they were aged 18-65 years old with secondary-progressive MS.


Statins have till date been used to protect people from strokes and heart attacks. In a bid to save more potential stroke-patients, the UK-based National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is inviting millions of people to be put on statin pill treatment.


However, critics are arguing that harm caused by consuming statins far outweigh the benefits among low-risk groups.


Patients suffering with MS make experience certain unpredictable symptoms like impaired memory and cognitive function, mobility difficulties, pain, tingling, or burning sensations throughout the body, slurred speech, muscle spasms or stiffness and vision problems.


Though there is no cure yet for MS, behavioral therapy and drug regimens help MS patients to lead productive lives.


Some of the drugs used till date to treat people with MS include Teriflunomide (an oral drug), Dimethyl Fumarate (another oral disease-modifying drug), Dalfampridine (a potassium channel blocker) and Myelin Peptides (protein fragments or a placebo). These drugs were well endured, with no adverse events.


However, no approved drug till date had shown any promising results once the disease had advanced to the secondary progressive MS. Usually MS patient advances to the secondary stage after suffering for about 10 years.


Dr Jeremy Chataway and his colleagues wish to treat MS patients at this stage of the disease with low cost statins.


Head of biomedical research at the MS Society, Dr Susan Kohlhaas said, “ . . . larger clinical trials are now absolutely crucial to confirm the safety and effectiveness of this treatment.”


The best treatments and symptoms of MS differ from person to person. What drug works for one patient may not essentially work for another.


Scientists continue to research more on the disease and try to find ways to treat it.

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