Zocor (simvastatin), a "statin" type of cholesterol-lowering drug, may block the body's ability to repair nerve tissue, according to a report in The American Journal of Pathology.
The results of an animal study suggest that use of Zocor impairs "remyelination", a process in which the fatty outer covering of nerve cells is reformed. Several neurologic disorders, most notably multiple sclerosis, involve the loss of this covering, which protects nerves and helps them transmit signals faster.
Statins are currently in clinical trials for the treatment of multiple sclerosis based on their ability to improve symptoms in animal models of the disease. However, there has also been evidence that statins may damage the cells responsible for remyelination.
Tested on lab animals
Dr Veronique Miron from McGill University, Montreal, Canada and colleagues investigated the effect of long-term Zocor therapy on an experimental form of multiple sclerosis in lab animals.
Treatment with Zocor for five weeks, but not for three, impaired remyelination, the authors found. They believe that Zocor achieves this effect by blocking the development of cells responsible for remyelination.
The results highlight the importance of monitoring the long-term effects of drugs that can access and affect the brain and spinal cord, the researchers state.
(Reuters Health, June 2009)