A two-year, 140-participant clinical trial has some good news for sufferers of multiple sclerosis and their loved ones.
Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating disease that destroys the myelin sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It results in a host of symptoms including loss of sensitivity, muscle weakness, difficulty moving, chronic and acute pain, speech problems, and depression. The cause is unknown and there is no known cure.
Treatment exists for the first stage, relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, where a patient may have symptoms for a while then periods of remission. These treatments can reduce the number of attacks and likelihood of disease progression or relapse. Statin drugs such as simvastatin, which are widely used to treat heart disease and high blood pressure, have previously been shown to alleviate the relapsing-remitting form.
This latest study showed the drug simvastatin can help slow the progress of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.
No treatment currently exists for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, which is why simvastatin may be a major breakthrough and huge relief for patients. The drug reduced brain shrinkage and patients who were given simvastatin performed better on movement tests and questionnaires measuring disability than those who took a placebo.
Though heartened by the results of the study, researchers say larger clinical trials are necessary before declaring statins a definite treatment option for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Even the statin studies on relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis have been relatively small, so more research is definitely necessary.
Researchers are still unsure why statin drugs are effective in treating multiple sclerosis, but declared the study results “immensely gratifying”.
Image via Thinkstock