Lipitor-Copaxone Combo May Fight MS
Study With Mice Shows Statin and MS Drug May Prevent Paralysis From Multiple Sclerosis
Paralysis Reversed in Mice
MS is a disease in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath coating nerve fibers. Myelin is important in the sending of nerve signals. There are several forms of MS:
- Relapsing-Remitting MS. About 85% of people with MS start with this condition. It's a vicious cycle of disease relapses and remissions. Disability gradually increases.
- Secondary-progressive MS. Untreated, about half of people with relapsing-remitting MS would go on to this condition, which is worsening of symptoms between relapses.
- Primary-progressive MS. Some 10% of people with MS have steadily accumulating disability from disease onset.
- Progressive-relapsing MS is a rare form of MS, with acute attacks and steadily increasing disability.
Treatments aim to disarm or deflect the improper immune responses that underlie MS. These treatments include beta interferon (Avonex, Betaseron, and Rebif), Copaxone, and the anticancer drug Novantrone. As noted above, Tysabri is currently unavailable but may soon return to the U.S. market.
Copaxone seems to pull the teeth from the immune cells that target MS. Lipitor and other statins, in an action separate from their anticholesterol effect, also affect the immune system.
Zamvil's team studied Copaxone and Lipitor in the mouse model of MS. These mice were given shots that gave them an MS-like disease.
The researchers found that low doses of Copaxone or Lipitor alone had no effect on disease in these mice. But a low-dose combination of the two drugs prevented MS. And in mice already paralyzed, the Lipitor/Copaxone combination reverses paralysis.
"Does this mean, wow, if we give these two drugs we will have a great effect?" Zamvil says. "We are hoping the two drugs together will have added benefit. But until we do the clinical trial in people, we won't know how much benefit and risk there will be."
"This combination is obviously a very good way to think about going," Wolinsky says. "But you really have to do the clinical studies."