Diabetes Drug Helps Protect Patients' Eyes

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 7 (HealthDay News) -- In people with type 2 diabetes, the drug fenofibrate reduces the need for laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among working-age adults worldwide.

Australian researchers studied close to 9,800 type 2 diabetes patients, ages 50-75, who received either 200 milligrams per day of fenofibrate or a placebo.

After an average follow-up of five years, fenofibrate reduced the frequency of first laser treatment for macular edema by 31 percent and for proliferative diabetic retinopathy by 30 percent.

The findings, by a team from the University of Sydney, were published online by The Lancet medical journal and were expected to be published in an upcoming print issue of the journal.

The researchers noted that although fenofibrate is a lipid-modifying agent, it didn't lead to clinically important differences in high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in the type 2 diabetes patients who took it.

"These findings suggest that the mechanisms of benefit of fenofibrate in diabetic retinopathy must go beyond the effects of this drug on lipid concentrations or to lower blood pressure and might be conferred mainly by other means," the study authors wrote.

They concluded that, "The substantial benefits of fenofibrate on need for laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy are likely to be additive to those benefits arising from tight control of blood glucose and blood pressure in the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus and emerge rapidly after treatment is commenced."

The findings support the use of fenofibrate in the management of diabetic eye disease, they wrote.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Nov. 6, 2007

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