Cholesterol Drugs May Help Eye Health
The history of medical advances is littered with stories of surprise findings and happy coincidences. You can add one more example to that legacy, as new research published in EBioMedicine suggests that adults suffering from an age-related eye disease that causes vision loss may benefit from a treatment that includes high doses of statins, the cholesterol lowering drugs.
Investigators at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School and the University of Crete found that a high-dose of atorvastatin was associated with regression of lipid deposits and an improvement in sight in patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S.
"We found that intensive doses of statins carry the potential for clearing up the lipid debris that can lead to vision impairment in a subset of patients with macular degeneration," Dr. Joan W. Miller said in a statement.
AMD affects more than 150 million people worldwide. There are two forms of the eye disease: "wet" and "dry." The wet form accounts for approximately 15 percent of the cases, while the more common dry form is about 85 percent. People with the wet form can be treated, but effective therapies are currently lacking for those with the dry.
Researchers collected and analyzed data from 23 patients with a dry form of the disease. They were prescribed 80 milligrams of atorvastatin, the generic name of the statin marketed as Lipitor® and other generic equivalents. Ten experienced an elimination of the deposits under the retina and mild improvement in visual acuity. Past techniques after this same result have mostly failed, some even allowing the disease to progress to a more advanced stage.
Statin is widely used among middle-aged and older adults – the same people who have an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration. Based on their findings, researchers believe that statins could halt progression of the age-related eye disease.