Further evidence statins could help control multiple sclerosis

June 8, 2017
Credit: University College London

A dose of the drug simvastatin results in cognitive improvement in people with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS), according to research published in The Lancet Neurology.

Researchers, led by Dr Jeremy Chataway (UCL Institute of Neurology), 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 SPMS in 2014.

Now after studying the same cohort of patients from that trial, the team have confirmed a positive effect of simvastatin on frontal lobe function and physical quality of life.

This study used simvastatin at 80mg versus a placebo in 140 people with secondary progressive MS (SPMS). A range of cognitive assessments were carried out in this substudy, including the National Adult Reading Test, the Visual Object and Space Perception battery (cube analysis) and the Frontal Assessment Battery. The Frontal Assessment Battery is a bedside assessment often used to assess some forms of frontal dementia. It encompasses features such as concepts and which reflect the way we interact with the world and modulate our decision-making.

Cognitive, neuropsychiatric, and health-related quality of life was assessed by neuropsychologists as well as self-reporting by the participants at 12 and 24 months.

At 24 months, the Frontal Assessment Battery score was 1.2 points higher in the simvastatin-treated group than in the placebo group. The simvastatin group also had a 2.5 points better mean physical component score of self-reports.

Dr Chataway 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."

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.

Dr Chataway said: "This study 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."

Dr Chataway was recently awarded a £6m grant to establish definitively whether is able to slow the rate of disability progression over a three year period in MS.

Dr David Schley, from 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."

Explore further: Trial to investigate if statins could become multiple sclerosis treatment

More information: Dennis Chan et al. Effect of high-dose simvastatin on cognitive, neuropsychiatric, and health-related quality-of-life measures in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis: secondary analyses from the MS-STAT randomised, placebo-controlled trial, The Lancet Neurology (2017). DOI: 10.1016/S1474-4422(17)30113-8

Related Stories

Trial to investigate if statins could become multiple sclerosis treatment

May 9, 2017
A UCL researcher is leading a phase 3 trial involving more than 1,000 people with multiple sclerosis (MS) to investigate whether simvastatin could become a treatment for the condition. 

Statins slow the progression of advanced multiple sclerosis in clinical trial

March 18, 2014
Statins may provide doctors with an unlikely new weapon with which to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Statins for kidney disease patients: Protection for the heart but no effects on kidneys

May 1, 2014
Lowering LDL cholesterol through statin-based treatment did not slow kidney disease progression within five years in a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN). The ...

Ezetimibe/Simvastatin ups clinical outcomes in IMPROVE-IT

February 1, 2016
(HealthDay)—Lipid-lowering therapy with ezetimibe plus simvastatin is associated with improved clinical outcomes, with a reduction in total primary end point (PEP) events, according to a study published in the Feb. 2 issue ...

Simvastatin / ezetimibe not beneficial in alopecia areata

April 27, 2016
(HealthDay)—Simvastatin/ezetimibe does not appear to be beneficial for severe alopecia areata (AA) in a sample of 20 patients, according to a letter to the editor published in the May issue of the Journal of the American ...

Recommended for you

How whip-like cell appendages promote bodily fluid flow

August 18, 2017
Researchers at Nagoya University have identified a molecule that enables cell appendages called cilia to beat in a coordinated way to drive the flow of fluid around the brain; this prevents the accumulation of this fluid, ...

Researchers find monkey brain structure that decides if viewed objects are new or unidentified

August 18, 2017
A team of researchers working at the University of Tokyo School of Medicine has found what they believe is the part of the monkey brain that decides if something that is being viewed is recognizable. In their paper published ...

Study of nervous system cells can help to understand degenerative diseases

August 18, 2017
The results of a new study show that many of the genes expressed by microglia differ between humans and mice, which are frequently used as animal models in research on Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

Researchers make surprising discovery about how neurons talk to each other

August 17, 2017
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have uncovered the mechanism by which neurons keep up with the demands of repeatedly sending signals to other neurons. The new findings, made in fruit flies and mice, challenge ...

How we recall the past: Neuroscientists discover a brain circuit dedicated to retrieving memories

August 17, 2017
When we have a new experience, the memory of that event is stored in a neural circuit that connects several parts of the hippocampus and other brain structures. Each cluster of neurons may store different aspects of the memory, ...

Researchers show how particular fear memories can be erased

August 17, 2017
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have devised a method to selectively erase particular fear memories by weakening the connections between the nerve cells (neurons) involved in forming these memories.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.