Cholesterol-lowering drugs may treat eye disease in diabetes

Credit: Unsplash+

The LENS trial, a significant study conducted in Scotland, has brought new hope to those suffering from diabetic retinopathy, a common eye condition in people with diabetes that can lead to vision loss.

Recently presented at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions and published in NEJM Evidence, the study reveals that fenofibrate, a drug traditionally used to lower cholesterol, could play a key role in managing this diabetes-related eye disease.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar levels cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye. It’s a leading cause of vision impairment globally and has been on the rise in recent decades.

Fenofibrate has been around for over 30 years, mainly used to manage cholesterol levels, but researchers have suspected it might also help slow the progression of eye diseases related to diabetes.

The LENS trial, led by Oxford Population Health, involved 1,151 adults with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes who were part of Scotland’s national routine diabetic eye screening program.

All participants had early to moderate stages of diabetic retinopathy at the start of the study. They were randomly assigned to receive either fenofibrate or a placebo, and their eye health was monitored over four years.

The findings were promising: those who took fenofibrate had a 27% lower risk of their condition worsening to the point where they needed specialist care or treatment for diabetic retinopathy or maculopathy, another severe eye condition that can lead to loss of vision.

Fenofibrate also seemed to reduce the risk of developing macular edema, which is swelling at the back of the eye.

These benefits were consistent across various groups, including individuals with both types of diabetes and those with differing levels of kidney function, highlighting fenofibrate’s potential as a versatile treatment option.

Dr. David Preiss, Associate Professor at Oxford Population Health and lead author of the study, emphasized the importance of finding effective treatments for diabetic eye conditions.

“Good control of blood glucose is crucial, but it’s hard to achieve for many,” he said. “With few treatment options available, fenofibrate could be a significant addition to prevent the progression of diabetic eye diseases.”

Participants in the trial also found the process straightforward and rewarding. Melville Henry from Leven shared that participating was simple, involving regular clinic visits and phone check-ups.

Linda Gillespie from Kirkcaldy echoed this sentiment, stressing the importance of research for advancing medical treatments. “It might not help me, but it might help someone else in the future,” she remarked.

Dr. Lucy Chambers, Head of Research Communications at Diabetes UK, also commented on the trial’s implications: “Eye problems are a scary and all-too-common consequence of diabetes. Acting early to address the first signs of damage is crucial to prevent severe vision loss.

This trial’s positive results represent a major advancement in slowing eye damage, offering potential benefits for many people with diabetes in the UK.”

The LENS trial’s outcomes suggest that fenofibrate could become a valuable tool in the fight against diabetic eye diseases, providing a new treatment strategy that could help maintain vision health for millions of diabetes patients worldwide.

If you care about eye health, please read studies about how vitamin B may help fight vision loss, and MIND diet may reduce risk of vision loss disease.

For more information about eye disease, please see recent studies about how to protect your eyes from glaucoma, and results showing this eye surgery may reduce dementia risk.

The research findings can be found in NEJM Evidence.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.