How Statins Might Help Your Sight

Statin treatment could help age-related macular degeneration patients

(RxWiki News) Statins are known to lower cholesterol and improve heart health in some patients. New evidence suggests they could also help some patients' sight.

If those patients have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), statins in high doses may improve their vision and fight underlying factors that can contribute to the eye condition, a new phase I/phase II trial found.

AMD is among the most common causes of blindness. The progressive eye disease is tied to deposits of fatty proteins under the retina in the eye. Symptoms include blurred vision and partial blindness.

AMD comes in two types: wet and dry. According to the authors of this study, the wet form has some effective therapies and accounts for a small portion of total cases. The dry version, however, is much more common and has fewer effective treatments.

Statins (sold under brand names like Lipitor, Pravachol, Zocor and Crestor) are a class of drugs most commonly used to lower high cholesterol, a condition tied to heart disease. But, according to this study, the use of statins may extend beyond the heart.

"This is a very accessible, FDA-approved drug that we have tremendous experience with," said study author Demetrios Vavvas, MD, PhD, co-director of the Ocular Regenerative Medicine Institute at Harvard Medical School, in a press release. "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."

For their study, Dr. Vavvas and colleagues gave 23 patients with dry AMD a high dose (80mg) of atorvastatin. Ten of those patients experienced improvements in vision and had fewer fatty deposits near the retina.

These results, while compelling, are early. Later-stage trials are needed to further test statins' effects on AMD. Dr. Vavvas and team said they are planning to conduct larger, more in-depth studies on this topic.

This study was published Feb. 4 in the journal EBioMedicine.

The Yeatts Family Foundation, Mass. Eye and Ear Neovascular Funds, Loefflers Family Foundation and Research to Prevent Blindness Foundation funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 6, 2016