Taipei, Taiwan—The guideline-recommended first-line agent for treatment of type 2 diabetes also appears to be a promising treatment for preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to new research.

A presentation at AAO 2018, the 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, reported on research indicating that patients with type 2 diabetes who took metformin had a significantly lower rate of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Researchers from Taichung Veterans General Hospital in Taipei note that inflammation and oxidative stress have long been known to play a key role in the development of both diabetes and AMD.

Because metformin suppresses inflammation and oxidative stress, the study team posited that metformin might also protect against AMD, one of the leading causes of blindness in Americans over age 50 years, affecting about 2.1 million people nationwide.

For the study, the researchers used the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database to collect information on all patients recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes from January 2001 to December 2013, dividing them into two groups: 45,524 who were prescribed metformin and 22,681 who were not.

During 13 years of follow-up, the researchers found that patients in the metformin group had a significantly lower risk of developing AMD. Half as many patients in the metformin group had AMD compared to the control group.

After adjustment for age, gender, and comorbidities, Cox regression showed a significantly lower risk of AMD development in the metformin group than in the comparison group (HR = 0.53; 0.49-0.58). That lead study authors to conclude, “In type 2 diabetic patients, metformin is associated with a significantly lower risk of subsequent AMD.”

“Our study is the first to reveal the protective effect of metformin on the development of AMD,” pointed out lead investigator, Yu-Yen Chen, MD. “While more study is required to determine just how metformin protects against the development of AMD, this is an exciting development for patients at risk.”

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