What is Simvastatin and why is this drug an important target for CPT?

Simvastatin is a drug currently used to treat people with high cholesterol. There is some evidence that these drugs - statins - have a potential neuro-protective role and this study has been designed to establish whether Simvastatin is of any value as a neuro-protective treatment in Parkinson’s*. The trial will investigate the value of Simvastatin as a treatment, not as a preventative measure in Parkinson’s.

Dr Richard Wyse (CPT's Director of Research) and Dr Camille Carroll who is leading the trial, make a compelling case for testing simvastatin as a potential disease modifying therapy in Parkinson’s in a recent article in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.

Why do researchers think this drug is a prospective treatment to slow, stop or reverse Parkinson’s?

It is hoped that Simvastatin may protect neuronal function in the brain, reduce cell death and reduce and protect against oxidative stress of neurones in the brain. Oxidative stress is, in essence, an imbalance between the production of highly reactive chemical substances in cells and the ability of the body to neutralise or detoxify these harmful effects resulting in cell damage or death. As a potentially neuro-protective drug, Simvastatin may have the ability to slow or stop the progression of the disease.

NB: CPT is interested in investigating the use of Simvastatin as discussed in two important studies: Yan J et al -'Simvastatin prevents dopaminergic neurodegeneration in experimental parkinsonian models: the association with anti-inflammatory responses' PLoS One 2011 and Bar-On et al - 'Statins reduce neuronal alpha-synuclein aggregation in in-vitro models of Parkinson’s' J Neurochem 2008.

These studies highlight that Simvastatin works as an anti-inflammatory and reduces alpha-synuclein clumping, which is a signature of Parkinson’s progression. It is therefore critical to understand the effect Simvastatin has in people living with Parkinson’s, as the evidence from these two journals suggest that it could have a disease modifying effect.

How is this trial being conducted?

This is a two year study in patients of moderate severity of Parkinson’s. Participants will be randomly allocated to receive either oral Simvastatin capsules or a matched placebo over the trial period. This study is double blind so neither the participant nor research team will know which study treatment the participant is allocated.

What do we envisage will happen after the trial?

At the end of the study, the results of the assessments will be compared to determine the response of those receiving the oral Simvastatin compared to those participants who received the matched placebo. It is hoped that this trial will demonstrate that there is a marked difference between those taking the statin and those taking the placebo. 

Further reading:


'Drug Repurposing in Parkinson's' ~ Dr Dilan Athauda and Professor Tom Foltynie

'Harnessing the trophic and modulatory potential of statins in a dopaminergic cell line' - M Schmitt et al.