High doses of statins may help with macular degeneration

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Eye Health | Sunday, February 07, 2016 - 11:00 AM

High doses of statins may help with macular degenerationHigh doses of statin drugs – cholesterol-lowering medications like Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor – may bring relieve to patients with macular degeneration. The findings were uncovered as a result of a study at Harvard Medical School. The research aimed to explore the effects of statin drugs in patients with dry form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Macular degeneration is a widespread eye disease affecting over 150 million people worldwide. There are two forms of AMD: the wet form and the dry form. The dry form is much more prevalent, accounting for 85 percent of cases. Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for the dry AMD, unlike its less common counterpart, the wet form. As a result, the dry-form macular degeneration continues to be the main cause of blindness in the Western world. The deterioration of vision is caused by the fat deposits under the retina.

The study involved 23 participants suffering from dry-form AMD. The patients were given a high dose of atorvastatin (also known as Lipitor). Ten patients experienced some improvement in their vision, as the fat deposits under the retina disappeared.

“We found that intensive doses of statins carry the potential for clearing up the lipid [fat] debris that can lead to vision impairment in a subset of patients with macular degeneration,” shared Dr. Joan Miller, chair of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and chief of ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts General Hospital. – “We hope that this promising preliminary clinical trial will be the foundation for an effective treatment for millions of patients afflicted with AMD.”

The treatment period took between one year and a year and a half to produce positive results. There were no successful attempts to get rid of the fat under the retina prior to this study. The success of the present trial warrants high hopes for the future AMD treatment.

Study co-author Dr. Demetrios Vavvas said, “It may be possible to eventually have a treatment that not only arrests the disease but also reverses its damage and improves the visual acuity in some patients.”

A larger study of the effect that the high-dose statin treatment has on dry-form AMD patients will be the next step in this research.

“This is a very accessible, FDA-approved drug that we have tremendous experience with,” Vavvas explained. “Millions of patients take it for high cholesterol and heart disease, and based on our early results, we believe it offers the potential to halt progression of this disease, but possibly even to restore function in some patients with dry AMD.”


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