In the largest study of statin use by advanced AMD patients to date, researchers followed 744 patients enrolled in the Complications of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Prevention Trial (CAPT) for five or six years. Statin drugs are primarily used to lower cholesterol in CVD patients, but they also affect mechanisms thought to impact AMD, including reduction of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein. Earlier studies on statins' effects had been inconclusive. All patients from the CAPT cohort study were at risk for advanced AMD, but none had developed advanced "wet" or "dry" AMD at baseline. The study was supported by the National Eye Institute.
"The CAPT data did not support a large effect for statins in decreasing advanced AMD risk in patients who already had large drusen in both eyes," said lead researcher Maureen G. Maguire, PhD, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Pennsylvania. Drusen are whitish deposits, common in the eyes of people older than 60, which may signal AMD. Statin users were at slightly higher risk than non-users for developing advanced AMD, she said.
Dr. Maguire said several factors may be masking a protective effect for statins, the most important being that most patients who take statins for CVD are also at high risk for AMD. Only a randomized controlled trial could reveal statins' impact on AMD in the wider population, but since so many elderly people take statins it could be difficult to recruit a control group. It is also possible that statins may need to be taken for longer than the CAPT study's timeframe to show a protective effect, she added.