Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may slow the progression of multiple sclerosis, according to a new study.
It included 81 patients with early-stage MS randomly selected to take either 80 milligrams a day of Lipitor (atorvastatin) or a placebo. After 12 months of treatment, 55.3 percent of patients taking the drug had developed no new brain lesions, compared with 27.6 percent of those who took the placebo.
The results of the phase II, multi-center trial were presented Wednesday at the annual scientific meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. Lipitor, placebo and additional support were provided by Pfizer, Inc., which makes Lipitor.
“Our data is preliminary, and we need a larger study to confirm the effects of the drug and their magnitude,” study co-leader Dr. Emmanuelle Waubant, an associate professor of neurology at the MS Center at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a news release.
“It is important that we understand how statins impact the progression of multiple sclerosis in order to better inform physicians and patients of their effect since these drugs are so broadly used throughout the United States and the world, and to learn whether a relatively inexpensive oral therapy can slow the course of the disease,” he added.
MS is an autoimmune disease in which immune cells attack the central nervous system and destroy the protective sheath (myelin) that surrounds nerves. This results in scars or lesions in demyelinated areas of the brain and spinal cord.