March 30 (UPI) – A drug commonly used to treat some forms of diabetic retinopathy may prevent vision-threatening complications associated with the disease, a study published Tuesday by JAMA Ophthalmology find.
Over a two-year period, only 16% of patients with diabetic retinopathy who received injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor, or anti-VEGF, suffered eye damage with loss of vision or worsening of symptoms. symptoms, the data showed.
These complications developed in about 44% of patients who received a placebo – a drug with no clinical benefit – the researchers said.
“It is possible that prevent [these complications] can reduce long-term vision loss, âstudy co-author Adam Glassman told UPI in an email.
“It is also possible that treating the eyes immediately after the development of diabetic macular edema or diabetic retinopathy will prevent the eye from losing vision,” said Glassman, acting executive director of the Jaeb Center for Health Research. in Tampa.
About 35 million people in the United States, or more than 10% of the population, have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
About 30% of people with diabetes develop eye complications such as diabetic retinopathy, in which blood vessels in the retina mostly bleed into the eye, estimates the National Eye Institute.
Retinopathy can, in turn, cause macular edema, which occurs when blood vessels in the eye leak fluid into the macula, causing it to swell.
The retina helps the eye process light, while the macula plays a key role in central vision, and damage to these two areas from diabetes threatens the sight of about 5% of people with the disease, according to the institute.
For this study, Glassman and colleagues treated 200 patients with diabetic retinopathy with the anti-vascular endothelial growth factor drug aflibercept, which is marketed under the brand name Eylea, or a placebo for two years.
Aflibercept, like other medicines in the same class, is injected into the surface of the eye every four months.
After two years of treatment, the risk of worsening diabetic retinopathy in patients treated with aflibercept was just under 14%, compared with 33% of those who received the sham drug, the data showed.
Likewise, the risk of macular edema with vision loss was 4% in patients treated with aflibercept compared to 14% in those receiving the dummy treatment, the researchers said.
The study is ongoing and researchers will provide data on all patients in the study after four years of treatment to see if the results are similar, according to Glassman.
âBased on the results of this study, some clinicians may decide to initiate preventative treatment with aflibercept for eyes with [some forms of] severe diabetic retinopathy, based on the reduction of anatomical complications, âhe said.
However, “some clinicians may choose to wait until the disease gets worse before starting treatment,” he added.