Cholesterol lowering drug effective in treating most common form of multiple sclerosis

HONOLULU, HI Simvastatin, a cholesterol-lowering drug, has shown promise in treating the most common form of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to researchers from Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Results of their study are being presented at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Honolulu, March 29-April 5, 2003.

Multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease affecting the nerves of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the myelin sheath (covering) that protects the nerves, affects more than a quarter million Americans. Most MS patients experience relapsing-remitting MS, in which symptoms or attacks are followed by complete or partial disappearance of the symptoms until another attack occurs. Attacks may remit for weeks, even decades, between relapses.

Currently, the most common medications used to treat MS are interferons, a class of drugs that interact with or regulate the body's immune system. While effective in reducing the frequency and severity of MS attacks, interferons have significant side effects.

Previous studies have indicated that statins, a class of drugs most commonly used to lower cholesterol, may have a therapeutic value for reducing inflammatory lesions of the central nervous system, as are seen in MS. "We were interested to assess the safety and efficacy of MS treatment with simvastatin by monitoring the number and volume of CNS lesions using magnetic resonance imaging," noted study author Timothy Vollmer, MD, chairman of Neurology at Barrow Neurological Institute.

Analysis of pre- and post-treatment brain MRI revealed a significant decrease in both the mean number and volume of active MS lesions with simvastatin treatment. Safety data showed no serious adverse events related to the study drug. "While our study outcomes are encouraging, randomized-controlled studies will need to be conducted to more definitively determine the effectiveness of this treatment," concludes Vollmer.

Contact: Marilee Reu
American Academy of Neurology

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