Statins are oral medications that are most commonly prescribed to lower cholesterol. Current interest is based on a non-controlled observational study (a study without a placebo group) suggesting that the risk of developing new brain lesions was reduced by about half if patients with early forms of MS were taking atorvastatin (Lipitor®). However, a three-year Danish study of patients with RRMS failed to find any beneficial effect for simvastatin as an add-on therapy to Avonex. The use of statins to lower cholesterol in patients on interferons should be discussed with a healthcare professional to consider the potential benefits versus risks.
At the ECTRIMS (European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis) annual meeting in Fall 2012, Chataway and colleagues presented the results of the MS-STAT trial.42 This Phase II study evaluated whether high-dose simvastatin can slow the rate of whole-brain atrophy, and/or disability, in secondary-progressive MS (SPMS). In this study, 140 patients were randomized, and the simvastatin group had a statistically significant benefit over the placebo group for the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) at two years, and the rate of brain atrophy was decreased. This serves as a positive proof-of-principle project that may allow for a larger trial that can look at the clinical outcomes as the primary outcomes measure. As effective treatments for SPMS remain an unmet need, and since these are readily available drugs, this is a tantalizing possibility.