Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive neurological disorder of the brain and spinal cord. It affects approximately 120,000 people in the UK and 2.5 million people globally. Most people with MS experience two stages of the disease: Early MS – Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS), which is partially reversible, and Late MS – Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS), which affects the majority of patients, usually after 10 to 15 years after diagnosis.
SPMS results from progressive neuronal degeneration that causes accumulating and irreversible disability affecting walking, balance, manual function, vision, cognition, pain control, bladder and bowel function. The pathological process driving the accrual of disability in SPMS is not known at present.
Immunomodulatory anti-inflammatory disease modifying therapies (DMTs) are increasingly effective in reducing relapse frequency in RRMS, however, they have been unsuccessful in slowing disease progression in SPMS. This is the overwhelming conclusion from an analysis of 18 phase 3 trials (n=8500), of which 70% of the population had SPMS, all performed in the last 25 years. There is no current disease modifying treatment (DMT) for SPMS.
In an earlier study (MS-STAT1), 140 people with SPMS were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or simvastatin for a period of two years. The investigators found that the rate of brain atrophy (loss of neurons - ‘brain shrinkage’), as measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), was reduced in patients receiving simvastatin compared to those taking placebo.
Several other long term studies have also reported that there might be a relationship between the rate of brain atrophy and the degree of impairment.
The study is designed to test the effectiveness of repurposed simvastatin (80mg) in a phase 3 double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial (1:1) in patients with secondary progressive MS (SPMS), to determine if the rate of disability progression can be slowed over a 3 year period.