Experimental Medications: Other Therapeutic Strategies
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 in patients with early forms of MS who 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 Annual Meeting in fall 2012, Chataway and colleagues presented the results of the MS-STAT trial.27 This Phase II study evaluated whether high-dose simvastatin can slow the rate of whole-brain atrophy, and/or disability, in SPMS.
In the MS-STAT trial, 140 patients were randomized, and the simvastatin group had a statistically significant benefit over the placebo group on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) at two years. The rate of brain atrophy was also decreased. This serves as a positive proof-of-principle project that may allow for a larger trial, which 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 an exciting possibility.