Regular consumption of antidiabetic drugs to control type 2 diabetes as well as drugs used to lower cholesterol have been found to effectively lessen the risk of developing a degenerative eye disease, known as AMD. A disease commonly associated with aging as it typically affects people above the age of 55 years.

The findings were conducted as part of the European Eye Epidemiology (E3) whose primary focus is on better understanding eye disease and vision loss pooled from analyses of relevant datasets. Researchers found that intake of cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins and antidiabetic drugs such as metformin were linked to a lower prevalence of AMD across a European cohort.

This is a significant finding as this disease is the leading cause of severe vision impairment and blindness in over 67 million older adults in Europe. Scientists predict the prevalence and incidence to rise by 15 percent and 75 percent respectively until the year 2050 as a result of population aging.

Age-related Macular Degeneration, AMD tends to harm central vision, especially in older adults. It could also result in the inability of one to see fine details. However, preventing or controlling the progression of the disease in the first instance remains an issue.

Before now, studies have been previously conducted to establish a therapy for better control or prevention of the progression of AMD.  The studies suggest the use of drugs designed to manage diabetes, lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation to alter pathways contributing to the progression of AMD, thereby eliciting its effect. However, due to the low population sample, the link between AMD and any of these drugs remains rather unclear. This then prompted the researchers to examine the association of the presence of AMD with the aforementioned drugs in a large European-based population.

Methodology

The new study published online in the British Journal of Ophthalmology looked at data from 14 population-based and hospital-based studies involving a total of 38,694 participants. They based their interest on people from Germany, France, Norway, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Focusing on AMD only, the researchers ruled out those below the age of 50 years.

The study participants had at least the use of one of the following drugs to: control diabetes using oral drugs as well as insulin; lower cholesterol level, including statins; lessen inflammation and L-dopa use (levodopa) – taken to treat Parkinson’s disease that impairs muscular coordination due to a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. 

The results showed that the prevalence of any AMD fell into the range of 12 percent to 65 percent – a total of 9,332 cases. For late AMD (also called advanced AMD), the study authors found prevalence ranged from 0.5 percent to 35.5 percent – a total of 951 cases. 

After further analyzing the data, they also found a 15 percent and 22 percent decrease in AMD prevalence with the intake of cholesterol drugs and antidiabetic drugs. 

However, the study reports that there was no link between drugs taken to lower cholesterol levels and manage diabetes with advanced AMD. In addition to that, they found no association between drugs for lowering inflammation (e.g. aspirin) likewise L-dopa use with any form of AMD.

This study, therefore, adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting a beneficial impact of cholesterol drugs and antidiabetic drugs on AMD. Notably, though, this is the first study examining individual-level data gathered from several population-based and hospital-based studies. 

The study authors believe that since these drugs work by interfering with the pathways consistent with AMD, the cause of AMD could be better understood.

“Yet, further longitudinal data are needed to confirm our findings, which are inherently limited by using cross-sectional data only and cannot infer causality,” concludes study lead author, Dr. Mauschitz.

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