Cardiovascular drug might treat diabetic retinopathy

October 1, 2008

A drug that has traditionally been used to treat cardiovascular conditions has shown promise in the treatment and prevention of diabetic retinopathy. The claim was based on data from a large-scale programme assessing the effect of an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) on the incidence and progression of diabetic eye disease. Findings from the study will be published in The Lancet.

A drug that has traditionally been used to treat cardiovascular conditions has shown promise in the treatment and prevention of diabetic retinopathy. The claim was based on data from a large-scale programme assessing the effect of an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) on the incidence and progression of diabetic eye disease. Findings from the study will be published in The Lancet.

The data, from over 5,000 patients, showed that the ARB, candesartan, caused a reduction in the incidence of diabetic retinopathy in type 1 diabetic patients, although this did not reach statistical significance, and a significant increase in regression of diabetic retinopathy in type 2 diabetics.

The DIRECT programme was a multicentre study, following 5,231 diabetic patients for at least four years, across 309 centres in 30 countries.

In type 1 patients with no signs of diabetic retinopathy at baseline, candesartan caused an 18% reduction in the incidence of disease as measured by 2-step change on the ETDRS scale, but a 35% reduction for 3-step change. Meanwhile, it increased the probability of disease regression by 34% in type 2 patients with early signs of retinopathy, whilst reducing the overall risk of progression by 13% in type 2 patients.

Around 80% of patients enrolled were treated for four to six years on a dose of 32 mg candesartan. The findings were presented in September at the European Association of the Study of Diabetes congress in Rome, Italy.