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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 August, 2003, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
Cholesterol drug cuts sight risk
AMD has no cure
A drug designed to lower cholesterol levels could protect patients from a leading cause of sight problems.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is caused by the breakdown of cells in the eye's retina.

Sufferers often cannot read or drive, and there is no current preventive treatment or cure.

However, a study carried out in the US found older people taking drugs called statins were half as likely to go on to develop AMD.


Statins are one of the most widely-prescribed drugs - and have been shown to save thousands of lives in the UK each year by preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Earlier studies have suggested they may also prevent AMD, and the latest research adds weight to this.

The team of scientists, from the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, looked at more than 500 people newly diagnosed with AMD.

They were compared with 5,500 people randomly drawn from the local population.

They found people with AMD were far more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure or vascular disease.

They were 50% less likely to have been prescribed statins than those without AMD.

More studies

The researchers said that while this was evidence that statins might be helpful, why raised cholesterol, or its effects on the body, might contribute to AMD was less clear.

"Further clinical research initiatives should include a randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of statins in lowering the risk or rate of progress of AMD," they wrote in the Journal of Ophthalmology.

A spokesman for the Royal National Institute for the Blind acknowledged that statins might have a role if other studies backed this finding up.

A spokesman said: "This study reiterates what we have already known for a few years.

"It re-emphasises the use of statins can be beneficial and once the medical debate has been had we would be keen to see statins available for those who are most at risk from AMD".

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