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Statin treatment in multiple sclerosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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BACKGROUND: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease that leads to progressive disability. Statins [hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors] are widely prescribed drugs in hypercholesterolemia. They exert immunomodulatory and neurotrophic effects and are attractive candidates for MS treatment due to reliable safety profiles and favorable costs. Studies of statins in a murine MS model and in open-label trials in MS have shown decreased disease severity.

OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to assess current evidence to support statin treatment in MS and clinically isolated syndrome (CIS).

METHODS: We conducted a systematic literature review of EMBASE, PubMed, and CINAHL databases, clinical trials registries, and unpublished conference meeting abstracts as well as reference lists between 1 and 8 June 2014 and repeated it on 1 December 2014. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of statins, in any form or dosage, as monotherapy or add-on to established therapy in relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), progressive MS, and CIS were included. Data were extracted using pre-defined fields to measure study quality. Meta-analysis was performed with regards to pre-defined outcome measures of relapse activity, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) activity, Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) progression, and adverse events using a fixed-effects model due to low heterogeneity between studies.

RESULTS: Eight trials were included in the review [five of statin add-on to interferon (IFN)-β treatment in RRMS, one of statin monotherapy in CIS, one of statin monotherapy in optic neuritis (ON)/CIS, and one of statin monotherapy in secondary progressive MS (SPMS)]. Three trials with eligible characteristics had not been published in peer-reviewed journals and were therefore not included. Due to the low number of trials in CIS and SPMS, meta-analysis of primary outcomes was only performed for RRMS studies. Meta-analysis showed no significant effect of statin add-on to IFNβ therapy. Indeed, a trend towards an increase in disease activity was shown in the statin group with regards to new T2 lesions, proportion of patients with relapse, and whole brain atrophy but not for EDSS progression. In SPMS, statin monotherapy showed significant reduction in brain atrophy and disability progression but no effect on relapse rate. In CIS, a phase II trial showed no difference in relapse activity, MRI activity or risk of MS between statin monotherapy and placebo. In acute ON, statin monotherapy produced better visual outcome but no difference in relapse activity, MRI activity, or risk of MS.

CONCLUSIONS: The pleiotropic effects and effects in the murine model of MS could not be converted to a proven effect in relapsing MS and hence statin therapy either as a monotherapy or in combination with IFNβ treatment for RRMS, and statin monotherapy for CIS cannot at present be recommended. However, indications are that statins may be beneficial in SPMS. The benefit thereof and whether this is due to a direct immunomodulatory and neuroprotective effect warrant further studies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalC N S Drugs
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)277-91
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015

ID: 45514945