Statins and diabetes drugs found to reduce risk of age-related macular degeneration

Posted: Tuesday 08 November 2022
Female researcher in laboratory

Drugs to control diabetes and lower cholesterol may reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a new study suggests.

The study, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, saw researchers draw together information from 14 studies to assess whether drugs to lower cholesterol, control diabetes, and dampen down inflammation may help to lessen the risk of developing AMD.

Previous research has shown positive results from these drugs, but findings have been partly contradictory and based on small numbers of participants.

Scientists at the University Hospital Bonn in Germany examined the studies involving almost 40,000 people from the UK, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal and Russia.

Participants in the studies which included around 9,332 with AMD, were all over the age of 50 and taking at least one type of drug to: lower cholesterol – including statins; control diabetes – including insulin; to control inflammation – excluding steroids; or a drug to treat movement disorders caused by neurodegenerative disease.

Researchers found that people taking drugs to lower cholesterol had a 15% reduced risk of developing AMD compared to those who were not taking the drugs.

Meanwhile, people taking medicine to control diabetes appeared to have a 22% lesser risk.

No such associations were found for the other types of drugs being taken by people involved with the study.

While further research is needed to examine the findings, the authors said: “Our study indicates an association of systemic use of LLD (lipid-lowering drugs) and antidiabetic drugs with lower AMD prevalence across several European cohort studies.”

Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society, said: “We have previously seen promising results from drugs used to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood, as they have shown the potential to clear away fatty deposits behind the retina, which lead to sight loss.

"While more examination is required, this latest study is promising news for patients with age-related macular degeneration.

“Anything that can help to reduce the risk of developing this devastating condition would be life-changing for so many.

"It is more important than ever to fund research to try to stop this disease in its tracks and we welcome any research which can bring us closer to this reality.”

Find out more about the research projects the Macular Society funds.