Shropshire Star

Cholesterol drug ‘slows progression of eye disease in people with diabetes’

Experts suggest the findings have the potential to benefit many people in the UK.

Woman using a microscope

A cholesterol-lowering drug may slow the progression of eye disease in people with diabetes, new research suggests.

Diabetes can cause damage to the small blood vessels at the back of the eye, a condition called diabetic retinopathy which is among the top five causes of sight loss across the world.

The new findings suggest that a drug, called fenofibrate, which has been used to lower cholesterol for more than 30 years might be able to reduce the risk of progression by up to 27%.

Experts suggest the findings have the potential to benefit many people in the UK.

Dr Lucy Chambers, head of research communications at Diabetes UK, said: “Eye problems are a frightening and too frequent complication of diabetes.

“But acting early can stop the first signs of damage progressing into devastating sight loss.

“We’re excited by the positive results from this major trial of a new treatment to slow progression of eye damage, which has the potential to benefit many people with diabetes in the UK.”

Dr David Preiss, Associate Professor at Oxford Population Health and lead author of the study, said: “Diabetic retinopathy remains a leading cause of visual loss.

“Good control of blood glucose is important but this is very difficult to achieve for many people, and there are few other treatments available.

“We need simple strategies that can be widely used to reduce the progression of diabetic eye disease.

“Fenofibrate may therefore provide a valuable addition to treat people with early to moderate diabetic retinopathy.”

The study found that people who took fenofibrate had a 27% lower risk of needing to be referred for specialist care or treatment for diabetic retinopathy or maculopathy (a progressive eye disease that can lead to vision loss).

Coordinated by Oxford Population Health, the LENS (Lowering Events in Non-proliferative retinopathy in Scotland) trial compared the effects of fenofibrate with a dummy tablet in 1,151 people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

The research, announced at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions and published in NEJM Evidence, also found that treatment of the drug was also associated with a lower risk of developing swelling at the back of the eye, and a lower risk of requiring treatment for retinopathy.

According to the findings, people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and people with both normal and impaired kidney function, saw the same benefits from the tablet.

The study was run in partnership with the Universities of Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh, and with NHS Scotland’s Diabetic Eye Screening Service.

It was funded primarily by the National Institute for Health and Care Research’s Health Technology Assessment Programme.

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