HIV and Diabetes Drugs May Lower the Risk of Developing AMD

Two research groups have used data from American health insurance claims to see if individuals on specific drugs have a lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

In the first study, researchers studied claims from over 600,000 individuals, half of whom had a diagnosis of AMD. The study published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that individuals who had previously taken metformin, used as a treatment for type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome, had a reduced chance of developing AMD. Interestingly, the effect was dose-dependent, and individuals on lower doses of metformin had the greatest benefit.

In the second study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that build-up of a certain type of DNA (called Alu DNA) could kill retinal pigment epithelial cells in the retina, potentially contributing to macular
degeneration. Based on this finding, they searched through claims from millions of patients to see if any drugs that block Alu DNA build up were associated with reduced vision loss. Indeed, they found that individuals who had taken a type of HIV drug known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) had less risk of developing dry AMD.

This data on its own isn’t enough to suggest that doctors should start prescribing these drugs, but they do provide interesting evidence that these drugs, or in the case of NRTIs, safer alternatives, could be considered for testing in new clinical trials to see if they help prevent AMD.

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