Researchers have kicked off a £6 million trial investigating the potential of simvastatin as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.
The Phase III MS-STAT2 trial - which is being funded by the MS Society, National Institute for Health Research, the National MS Society (US), the NHS and UK universities - will involve over 1,000 people with secondary progressive MS and should take around six years to complete.
The study will investigate at around 30 centres across the UK whether simvastatin can slow disability progression in patients over a three-year period, using the Expanded Disability Status Scale to assesses changes in walking and other MS symptoms.
It rides on the back of mid-stage research published in 2014 which found that patients taking high doses of simvastatin had better disability scores compared with those taking placebo, while the drug was also found to reduce the rate of brain atrophy (shrinkage) over two years, suggesting that it could protect nerves from damage in MS.
“This drug holds incredible promise for the thousands of people living with secondary progressive MS in the UK, and around the world, who currently have few options for treatments that have an effect on disability,” said Dr Jeremy Chataway from the UCL Institute of Neurology, who is leading the research.
“This study will establish definitively whether simvastatin is able to slow the rate of disability progression over a three year period, and we are very hopeful it will.”
“This is an absolutely momentous step forward in our quest to find an effective treatment for progressive MS,” added Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of the MS Society.
Around 100,000 people in the UK currently have MS, a neurological condition affecting the nerves. The majority have relapsing forms of the disease and about 65 percent of these go on to develop secondary progressive MS, for which there are no approved treatments to slow down disease progression.