A unique skillful observation about vision health.
Some patients with dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) were found to have improvements after taking high doses of a common cholesterol-lowering medication. Atorvastatin is the statin drug used in a phase I/II clinical trial at Massachusetts Eye and Ear at Harvard Medical School and the University of Crete. A higher-than-normal dose of the drug caused lipid deposits to behind the retina to resolve in some of the subjects.
Statin drugs are FDA approved for controlling blood cholesterol levels. The study used 80mg of atorvastatin, which is higher than the normal dose. The “dry” form of Macular Degeneration is much more common than the “wet” form. However, there are limited effective medical treatments for the dry form. Therefore, this study could represent a treatment using a well-known class of medications.
The study strengthens the links between dry ARMD, lipids and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Soft, lipid-rich drusen build up on the outer retina. This is similar to the build-up of fats inside blood vessels in atherosclerosis.
Macular Degeneration mostly affects senior citizens. Statin drugs are frequently used in middle and older ages to control cholesterol. Prior studies found no link between users of these drugs at standard doses and the incidence of ARMD. So the researchers hypothesized that a larger dose might have an effect, and this appears to be the case.
Side-effects of statin drugs include muscle pain, and more rarely, liver damage, increased blood sugar levels and memory loss. No one should change their medication dosage without a doctor’s approval. As of May 2016, Atorvastatin has not been FDA approved for treating wet Macular Degeneration and would be considered an “off-label” use.
Study: “Regression of Some High-risk Features of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) in Patients Receiving Intensive Statin Treatment” by Demetrios G. Vavvas et. al. March 2016. Volume 5, Pages 198–203. EBio Medicine. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2016.01.033
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