Surprise discovery shows multiple sclerosis sufferers' lives are significantly improved by taking statins

 

Health Reporter

People living with late-stage multiple sclerosis (MS) could have their condition significantly improved by taking statins, doctors have found, in a “surprise” discovery which could be of major benefit to thousands of sufferers.

In results described as “very exciting” by the leading MS charity, researchers found that taking a large daily dose of statins, which are commonly used to reduce the risk of heart disease, could also slow the progression of MS in its later, more debilitating phase.

Patients who took the drugs over two years experienced less severe symptoms of disability, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans revealed that their brains shrank at a slower rate than patients who took a placebo.

MS, a disease of the brain and nervous system which causes problems with movement, balance and vision, affects around 100,000 people in the UK. While it can be managed in its early phase, when patients often experience days, weeks or even months without symptoms, most sufferers go on to develop secondary progressive MS within 15 years of diagnosis, which is more severe and largely untreatable.

While the disease is not fatal, there is no cure and it can lead to people becoming severely disabled and vulnerable to complications. The average life expectancy of people with MS is around 10 years lower than the population at large. Women are three times more likely to have the disease as men.

The study, published in The Lancet medical journal today which was conducted at Imperial College London, is the culmination of many years of research in collaboration with University College London (UCL), into the potential benefits of statins as a treatment for autoimmune diseases.

Dr Richard Nicholas, of Imperial’s Faculty of Medicine, who coauthored the paper with Dr Jeremy Chataway, said that their findings were particularly promising, as statins are already cheap and widely used, and could, in theory, be rolled out as an MS treatment quickly and with widespread impact.

“At the moment, we don’t have anything that can stop patients from becoming more disabled once MS reaches the progressive phase,” he said. “Discovering that statins can help slow that deterioration is quite a surprise.”

In late stage MS the brain shrinks by around 0.6 per cent per year, said Dr Chataway, who is now at UCL. In patients who received statins, that shrinkage was reduced to 0.3 per cent a year – a 43 per cent reduction compared to the placebo group.

Dr Chataway urged caution on the brain imaging findings, which he said would did not necessarily translate to clinical benefit, but agreed that the findings were “promising”.

Patients on statins also scored better on tests of disability: both self-reported, and in assessments by doctors.

Large phase-three clinical trials were now required to confirm the findings of the study, which only looked at 140 MS patients, the researchers said.

“Scientists have worked for years to find a potential treatment that could help people, and now, finally, one has been found,” said Dr Susan Kohlhaas, head of biomedical research at the MS Society. “This is very exciting news.”

Professor John Greenwood, of UCL’s Institute of Ophthalmology, who has led research efforts into statins said: “After nearly two decades of research, it is immensely gratifying to see this work progress into the clinic to deliver benefits to patients.”

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    BI Manager - £50,000

    £49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

    BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

    £48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

    VB.Net Developer

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

    SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game