Background: Treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis with interferon beta is only partly effective. We aimed to establish whether add-on of simvastatin, a statin with anti-inflammatory properties, improves this efficacy.
Methods: We enrolled treatment-naive patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in a multicentre, placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomised, parallel-group trial of simvastatin (80 mg daily) as add-on treatment to intramuscular interferon beta-1a (30 μg weekly). After starting treatment with interferon beta, patients were randomly assigned (in computer-generated blocks of four patients) to simvastatin 80 mg per day or placebo for 1-3 years. Patients and treating and evaluating physicians were masked to treatment allocation. The primary outcome measure was annual rate of documented relapses; analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered at ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT00492765.
Findings: We randomly assigned 307 patients to interferon beta plus simvastatin (n=151) or plus placebo (n=156). Annual rate of documented relapses was 0·19 (95% CI 0·13 to 0·28) in the simvastatin group and 0·14 (95% CI 0·09 to 0·23) in the placebo group (absolute difference 0·059, 95% CI -0·21 to 0·09; p=0·35). Time to first documented relapse (20th percentile) was 18·1 months in patients on simvastatin and 21·5 months in those on placebo (hazard ratio 1·21, 95% CI 0·74 to 1·99; p=0·51). Mean number of new or enlarging T2 lesions was 2·96 in the simvastatin group and 2·52 in the placebo group (ratio of new lesions, 1·17, 95% CI 8·89 to 1·55; p=0·25). Eight (6%) patients on simvastatin and 17 (13%) on placebo had no disease activity (odds ratio 0·42, 95% CI 0·17 to 1·00; p=0·05). No unexpected adverse events were seen. Generally, adverse events were mild and there were no group differences in infections or musculoskeletal disorders, including myalgia (five [3%] patients on simvastatin and nine [6%] on placebo). Rhabdomyolysis and myoglobinuria were not reported and there were no differences in serum creatine phosphokinase.
Interpretation: We found no beneficial effect of simvastatin as add-on therapy to interferon beta-1a. Although unlikely, we can not exclude that combination of other statins with other disease-modifying drugs still could be beneficial.
Funding: Biogen Idec.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.