Parkinson’s disease remains a formidable problem, with approximately 60,000 Americans diagnosed with it each year. In the UK, there are currently around 127,000 individuals living with the disease. Yet few people worldwide understand why some people develop the condition while others don’t. Because of this, researchers are constantly trying new approaches to treat Parkinson’s, which has yet to be reversed or cured. One of the latest techniques added to the arsenal of effective treatments focuses on a drug that has already been approved for use — a cholesterol-lowering treatment called Simvastatin.

The Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry are currently carrying out a clinical trial in which they’re using the treatment on 198 Parkinson’s disease patients who aren’t currently taking statins. The trial is part of a larger initiative from The Cure Parkinson’s Trust’s (CPT) Linked Clinical Trials Programme, which is now in its fourth year. Every year, a group of internationally respected Parkinson’s experts analyze compounds that have the potential to slow, stop, or even reverse the disease — they then decide which ones to bring to clinical trials. The program has previously uncovered treatments for diabetes as well as mitochondrial dysfunction move forward into Parkinson’s trials.

“It is encouraging to see new compounds that are already approved as being safe for use in many being trialed for use in Parkinson’s,” said Dr. Camille Carroll, the trial’s chief investigator, in a press release. “There have been few innovations in the treatment of Parkinson’s for over 40 years, and for the more than 127,000 people living with the condition in the UK, the results of this trial’s programme could lead to new and highly effective treatments in the armory of medications to tackle Parkinson’s.”

The co-founder of CPT, Tom Isaacs, has actually been living with Parkinson’s for 20 years. He explained that CPT planned to leave no stone unturned in the search for a treatment.

“We want to make a difference to those of us living with this condition within five years,” he said. “The results of a recent trial in multiple sclerosis with simvastatin, and the pre-clinical work investigating its effect on alpha-synuclein clumping (which is a common feature of Parkinson’s) indicate that it could be an effective treatment to slow down the progression of Parkinson’s.”

Many cases of Parkinson’s are undiagnosed and untreated, and it’s estimated about 10 million to 20 million people in the world are living with the disease. This number is expected to double by 2030 — a huge reason for the sense of urgency among those researching new approaches to treating and control the disease.