Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School and the University of Crete have found that high doses of statins (cholesterol-lowering medications) can effectively reduce the number of soft drusen deposits in retinas of people with dry age-related macular degeneration (dAMD). The findings from their phase I/II clinical trial were published in the recent issue of EBioMedicine. Their hope is that this research will provide a foundation for an effective means of preventing progression to the advanced stages of a disease which currently has no effective treatment.
Drusen in the retina are similar to cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels, which has led scientists to look at cholesterol-lowering drugs for AMD patients. Previous studies, however, have not shown a significant effect of cholesterol medications on drusen. The possible answer, according to these researchers, is to increase the dosages beyond the normal amount.
Twenty-three patients with dry AMD marked by soft lipid deposits in the outer retina were prescribed a high dose (80mg) of atorvastatin, the generic name of the statin marketed as Lipitor® and several generic equivalents. Of the 23 patients, 10 experienced an elimination of the deposits under the retina and mild improvement in visual acuity.
As the next step for this line of research, the investigators plan to expand to a larger prospective multicenter trial to further investigate the efficacy of the treatment in a larger sample of patients with dry AMD.
To read about this and other developing treatments for dAMD, see A Guide to Research in Dry AMD.