Statins could do wonders for people by lowering their cholesterol levels, and may also prove to be beneficial for patients with the most common form of blindness.
A small study conducted at the Harvard Medical School revealed that high doses of statin medication such as Crestor, Zocor and Lipitor may help patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
AMD patients often develop blurring or blindness in the center of their vision because of the fat deposits that form under their retina. Dry-form AMD is the most common type of this eye disease, but there is no effective treatment for it yet so it remains the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
During an early clinical trial, Harvard researchers examined the effects of statin treatments among people with the dry form of AMD. About 23 patients with dry-form AMD received 80 milligrams of Lipitor.
Researchers found that after 18 months of statin treatment, the fat deposits under the retina disappeared in 10 of the 23 patients. Their vision clarity also slightly improved.
"We found that intensive doses of statins carry the potential for clearing up the lipid debris that can lead to vision impairment in a subset of patients with macular degeneration," said Dr. Joan Miller, lead researcher of the study.
Miller hopes that their promising preliminary findings will become the foundation for an effective treatment for 150 million patients afflicted with the eye disease.
Meanwhile, Dr. Demetrios Vavvas, a co-author of the study, said that not all cases of dry-form AMD are the same. He said their findings indicate that statins are going to be most effective when prescribed at high doses.
"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," said Vavvas.
The team's next step is to perform a larger study of statin treatments for patients with AMD.
Vavvas said that statin is an FDA-approved and accessible drug that they have had plenty of experience with.
"We believe it offers the potential to halt progression of this disease, but possibly even to restore function in some patients with dry AMD," added Vavvas.
The study is featured in the journal EBioMedicine.