Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and University College London have discovered that a drug, originally developed to treat cardiovascular disease, has the potential to reduce diabetes related blindness.
According to recent WHO global estimates, 422 million people have diabetes. One of the most common complications of this disease is vision loss. Diabetic Macular Oedema occurs in approximately 7 percent of patients with diabetes and is one of the most common causes of blindness in the Western World.
In the U.K., this sight-threatening complication of diabetic retinopathy is associated with estimated health and social care costs of £116 million ($167 million). The socio-economic burden will only increase with prevalence of diabetes rising by more than 50 percent by 2030.
Queen’s and UCL researchers, in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, found that the drug Darapladib inhibits an enzyme which is increased in people with diabetes and causes blood vessel leakage in the eye which leads to swelling of the retina and severe vision loss.
Currently, the most common treatments for patients with Diabetic Macular Oedema is an injection of a drug directly into to the eye every 4-6 weeks. This therapy is very expensive and not effective for about half of all patients with the disorder.
The teams discovered that Darapladib in form of a tablet has potential to reduce the need for monthly injections and provide protection against vision loss in a much wider group of patients with diabetes.
The research has been published in the scientific journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Science USA.