In the March 16 on-line edition of The Journal of Clinical Investigation, they report the results of a study that looked at the use of the drug (marketed as Lipitor) in combination with Glatiramer acetate (marketed as Copaxone), a drug already approved for treating MS.
The findings demonstrate, they say, that the drugs worked synergistically, preventing or diminishing paralysis in mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a model disease that closely resembles multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis causes a variety of neurological symptoms including loss of motor control, visual loss or imbalance. A primary symptom is temporary, recurring paralysis in the limbs, as occurs in the mice.
Copaxone is known to boost the immune system's anti-inflammatory response, countering the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, or chemicals, unleashed when the immune system inadvertently turns against the brain's nervous tissue in MS. The drug is approved for treatment of relapsing-remitting MS, the most common form of the disease, but is effective in only a third of cases.
Lipitor is also known to have immunomodulatory properties, and recent evidence in mice and initial clinical trials suggest that it, and possibly other statins, may be effective in treating T-cell-mediated, autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other inflammatory conditions. In fact, a 2002 study of mice with EAE by the UCSF-Stanford team (Nature, Nov. 7, 2002), has led to the establishment of a fourteen-center, placebo-controlled trial, led by UCSF scientists, to determine if Lipitor prevents conversion to definite multiple sclerosis in
Contact: Jennifer O'Brien
University of California - San Francisco