Statins a new hope for treatment of Multiple Sclerosis an autoimmune disease

Nerve cells structure

University college of London (UCL) researchers in the initial phase of clinical trial have found out that taking high doses of Statins (Simvastatin), a cholesterol-lowering drug by the people with the secondary progressive form of multiple sclerosis (MS) had a significant reduction in the rate of brain atrophy (brain shrinkage) over two years and also had better disability scores at the end of study. The phase 2 Clinical trial was conducted in collaboration with National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the MS Society (UK), the National MS Society (US), the NHS and UK universities.

MRI of Brain - multiple sclerosis

The Phase 2 clinical trial which was conducted with a group of 140 volunteers with secondary progressive MS has shown that taking high doses of the drug had a significant reduction in the rate of brain atrophy (brain shrinkage) over two years and also had better disability scores at the end of the study. To know about the clinical research check out my previous post about Clinical research and clinical trial phases.

In order to find the effectiveness of the drug for more variation of the population, an UCL researcher is leading a phase 3 trial involving 1180 people with secondary progressive MS at almost thirty centers across the UK to investigate whether simvastatin could become a treatment for the condition. The research is expected to take minimum six years to complete, with the first people receiving medication later this year in 2017. This research brings a final hope for 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. Also to know more about the U.S FDA drug approval and safety analysis process check out my previous post.

What are Statins?

Statins are a commonly used drug prescribed by doctors to lower the Cholesterol level in the blood.

Our body needs some cholesterol to work properly, but if it stores too much of cholesterol it can stick to the walls of arteries and narrow or even block them leading to failure in the proper functioning of the heart in the circulation of blood to each part of the body. Statins work by interfering with the production of Low-density Lipoprotein a form of protein which is considered as bad cholesterol in the liver. They lower bad cholesterol levels and raise good cholesterol levels. This can slow the formation of plaques in the arteries.

Statins are relatively safe for most people. But they are not recommended for pregnant women’s or those with active or chronic liver disease.

Effect of Statin and HIV or Hepatitis C Protease inhibitors drugs on muscle injury:

FDA in his investigation has found out that the interactions between HIV or Hepatitis C drugs and cholesterol-lowering statin drugs can increase the risk of muscle injury. Protease inhibitors and statins are taken together may raise the blood levels of Statins and increase the risk for muscle injury (myopathy). The most serious form of myopathy, called rhabdomyolysis, can damage the kidneys and lead to kidney failure, which can be fatal.

HIV protease inhibitors are a class of prescription anti-viral drugs used to treat HIV. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) protease inhibitors are a class of prescription anti-viral drugs used to treat hepatitis C infection. It is known that side effect of taking HIV protease inhibitors is increased cholesterol and triglyceride (fat) levels. Therefore, some patients taking HIV protease inhibitors may need to take cholesterol-lowering medicines such as statins.

Types of Statins:

A different form of Statins which are marketed as single-ingredient products is available in the market under different product label like:

  • Lipitor (atorvastatin).
  • Lescol (fluvastatin).
  • Mevacor (lovastatin).
  • Altoprev (lovastatin extended-release).
  • Livalo (pitavastatin).
  • Pravachol (pravastatin).
  • Crestor (rosuvastatin) and Zocor (simvastatin).

What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a type of autoimmune disease which affects the Brain and Spinal cord. It damages the myelin sheath, the material that surrounds and protects the nerve cells. This damage slows down or blocks messages between the brain and the body, leading to the symptoms of MS. MS attacks some time leads to painful and exhausting and can cause problems with how we walk, move, see, think and feel. It has been found that Multiple sclerosis affects women more than men and affects peoples between the ages of 20 and 40.  The condition is unpredictable and different for everyone.

Nerve cells structure - multiple sclerosis
An inside view of Nerve cells structure

Symptoms of Multiple sclerosis:

The most common symptoms reported from peoples with Multiple sclerosis diseases are:

  • Visual disturbances.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Trouble with coordination and balance.
  • Sensations such as numbness, prickling.
  • Thinking and memory problems.

Stages of Multiple Sclerosis:

Based on the severity of the disease MS has been classified into following four types:

 Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS):

This is the most common form of MS disease in which around 80% – 85% peoples with MS are of Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. This type of MS occurs in peoples of age 20 to 40 years of old. Peoples with RRMS experience a relapsing stage in which there will be a sudden occurrence of symptoms of the disease which often lost for about 24 hours. This stage is followed by Remitting stage in which patients follows a recovery from the symptoms of the disease.

Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS):

People with primary progressive MS are usually older aged peoples of age 40 and above. PPMS occur in around 10% of peoples with MS disease.  In PPMS, the diseases and its symptoms gradually get worse as the peoples get older. This type of MS has no treatments.

Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS):

Most of the peoples with RRMS type, often seen the symptoms of Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. In SPMS, symptoms worsen more steadily over time, with or without the occurrence of relapses and remissions.

Progressive Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis:

A rare form of MS which accounts for about 5% of peoples with MS. Progressive Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis is characterized by a steadily worsening disease state from the beginning, with acute relapses but no remissions, with or without recovery.

Cause of Multiple Sclerosis:

Numerous researches have been conducted to identify the cause of MS disease but till now the cause of the disease is unknown hence researchers finding difficult to find the treatments for the disease.

Some research has shown that the disease is caused by some kind of genetic mutation which leads t the production of antibodies against the body’s own tissue which in turn attacks the protective coating of the nerve cells called myelin. When the protective myelin is damaged and nerve fiber is exposed, the nerve signal that travels along that nerve may be slowed or blocked. The nerve may also become damaged itself.

Some other research has shown that various environmental factor like smoking, exposure to carcinogenic factors etc are the main factors behind of the MS disease.

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