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Effect of high-dose simvastatin on brain atrophy and disability in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS-STAT): a randomised, placebo-controlled, phase 2 trial

Jeremy Chataway, Nadine Schuerer, Ali Alsanousi, Dennis Chan, David MacManus, Kelvin Hunter, Val Anderson, Charles R M Bangham, Shona Clegg, Casper Nielsen, Nick C Fox, David Wilkie, Jennifer M Nicholas, Virginia L Calder, John Greenwood, Chris Frost, Ric

The Lancet, In Press, March 2014

Summary
Background

Secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, for which no satisfactory treatment presently exists, accounts for most of the disability in patients with multiple sclerosis. Simvastatin, which is widely used for treatment of vascular disease, with its excellent safety profile, has immunomodulatory and neuroprotective properties that could make it an appealing candidate drug for patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.

Methods
We undertook a double-blind, controlled trial between Jan 28, 2008, and Nov 4, 2011, at three neuroscience centres in the UK. Patients aged 18–65 years with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis were randomly assigned (1:1), by a centralised web-based service with a block size of eight, to receive either 80 mg of simvastatin or placebo. Patients, treating physicians, and outcome assessors were masked to treatment allocation. The primary outcome was the annualised rate of whole-brain atrophy measured from serial volumetric MRI. Analyses were by intention to treat and per protocol. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00647348.

Findings
140 participants were randomly assigned to receive either simvastatin (n=70) or placebo (n=70). The mean annualised atrophy rate was significantly lower in patients in the simvastatin group (0·288% per year [SD 0·521]) than in those in the placebo group (0·584% per year [0·498]). The adjusted difference in atrophy rate between groups was −0·254% per year (95% CI −0·422 to −0·087; p=0·003); a 43% reduction in annualised rate. Simvastatin was well tolerated, with no differences between the placebo and simvastatin groups in proportions of participants who had serious adverse events (14 [20%] vs nine [13%]).

Interpretation
High-dose simvastatin reduced the annualised rate of whole-brain atrophy compared with placebo, and was well tolerated and safe. These results support the advancement of this treatment to phase 3 testing.

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About the Editors

  • Prof Timothy Vartanian

    Timothy Vartanian, Professor at the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Department of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell...
  • Dr Claire S. Riley

    Claire S. Riley, MD is an assistant attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology in the Neurological Institute, Columbia University,...
  • Dr Rebecca Farber

    Rebecca Farber, MD is an attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at the Neurological Institute, Columbia University, in New...

This online Resource Centre has been made possible by a donation from EMD Serono, Inc., a business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

Note that EMD Serono, Inc., has no editorial control or influence over the content of this Resource Centre. The Resource Centre and all content therein are subject to an independent editorial review.

The Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation
supports promising translational research projects by academic researchers to improve understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS) for the ultimate benefit of patients.  For full information and application details, please click here

Journal Editor's choice

Recommended by Prof. Brenda Banwell

Causes of death among persons with multiple sclerosis

Gary R. Cutter, Jeffrey Zimmerman, Amber R. Salter, et al.

Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, September 2015, Vol 4 Issue 5