Further evidence statins could hold key in battle against multiple sclerosis 

07/06/2017 00:00 
A dose of the drug simvastatin results in cognitive improvement in people with multiple sclerosis, according to research published today in The Lancet Neurology
 

Researchers, led by UCLH consultant Dr Jeremy Chataway, previously reported the effect of a high dosage of simvastatin, a type of statin widely used to reduce cholesterol and already known to be safe, on brain atrophy (shrinkage) in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) in 2014.

There are approximately 100,000 people in the UK with MS. At about 10-15 years into the disease, at least half will become secondary progressive, characterised by greater disability, and gradual worsening of the condition.  There are very few treatments that stop this worsening.

Now, the team have confirmed a positive effect of simvastatin on frontal lobe function and physical quality of life.

Dr Chataway, who is supported by UCLH’s Biomedical Research Centre, said: “The study is clinically important because patients with MS, in particular those with progressive MS, have a significant but under-reported, cognitive burden, such as memory, processing and mental flexibility. We have shown in this early work that simvastatin can help that part of it.

"This is an important small step in reinforcing the need to study cognition in MS and to continue to advance its treatment. Following on from this study we would recommended focusing the study on those aspects of cognition which are most frequently affected.”

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences, said: “It is encouraging to see the broader positive impact of simvastatin, particularly on cognitive function and quality of life – two key areas in MS – and particularly challenging in those with progressive disease. These results further underline the importance of the imminent phase III trial.”

This research is another exciting breakthrough following on from the recent announcement of Dr Chataway's £6million grant to establish definitively whether simvastatin is able to slow the rate of disability progression over a three-year period in MS.

Dr David Schley, of the MS Society, said: “Cognitive issues – like problems with memory and thinking – are a common and distressing symptom for people with MS, so this is encouraging news. Earlier findings from this trial also found statins could potentially slow the progression of MS and the MS Society is now co-funding the final stage of this research.”

 

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