Cholesterol drug can help treat MS
- Cholesterol drug can help treat MS
UPI Science News
From the Science & Technology Desk
Published 3/31/2003 6:05 PM
HONOLULU, March 31 (UPI) -- A popular cholesterol drug also can be an
treatment for the most common form of multiple sclerosis, a study
released late Monday
Researchers, led by Dr. Timothy Vollmer, chairman of neurology at the
Neurological Institute in Phoenix, tested the anti-cholesterol
one of the widely used statin drugs, on 45 MS patients ages 18 to 55.
Thirty of these
patients received 80 milligrams daily of the drug, known by its brand
Prior to treatment, all patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging
researchers could examine their baseline MS lesions, which form along
nervous system leading up to the brain. After treatment, MRI scans
In findings to be presented Tuesday at the American Academy of
Neurology meeting in
Honolulu, Vollmer and colleagues will report Zocor reduced the number
significantly -- by 43 percent -- reducing the volume of the lesions
In addition, because no study subjects reported any serious side
effects, the drug
appears to be relatively safe.
Vollmer said the drug also reduced substantially the inflammation
caused by the lesions
along the central nervous system -- suggesting cholesterol-fighting
drugs might have
untapped potential for other conditions.
"I was surprised," Vollmer told United Press International. "I
thought they would have had
a very modest effect."
Cholesterol drugs appear to "inhibit a part of the immune system that
is involved in the
attack on the brain in MS patients," he explained. "These immune
cells, once they get
into the brain, set off a process that leads to further damage."
medications could help "reprogram the immune system" to keep it from
body, he added.
Another perk of Zocor is it already has been approved by the U.S.
Food and Drug
Administration. "If in three years, these studies are positive,
theoretically, patients and
physicians can start using the drugs (to treat MS)," Vollmer said.
Dr. Ben Thrower, medical director of the multiple sclerosis center at
the Shepherd Center
in Atlanta, told UPI that "it's looking very exciting."
What is so promising about this approach is cholesterol-lowering
drugs are "not
suppressing the immune system -- and that's the real key," Thrower
However, the dosages required could be higher for MS patients than
for patients trying to
reduce cholesterol levels, he said, so "there may be more liver risk"
with the larger
MS is a degenerative disease affecting more than 250,000 Americans.
It attacks the
nerves along the spinal cord and brain, including the myelin, the
protective coating that
covers the nerves.
The latest treatment for MS is a class of drugs called interferons,
which regulate the
body's immune system. However, interferons produce significant side
fatigue, joint pain, headaches and even depression.
(Reported by Katrina Woznicki, UPI Science News, in Washington)
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