Blood Pressure Drugs Stop Diabetic Eye Disease from Progressing

Two drugs used to treat high blood pressure can significantly slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy, a serious and common complication of type 1 diabetes that can lead to vision loss. According to five-year data from a multi-center clinical trial, type 1 patients with normal blood pressure, no detectable kidney disease, and very mild eye disease who received either drug—losartan or enalapril—were at least two times less likely to see a progression in diabetic retinopathy than study participants who didn’t get them. Neither drug slowed the progression of diabetic kidney disease. While the findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggest a potential new therapy for retinopathy, further studies are needed before the drugs can be recommended for routine use in people with diabetes. To this end, the researchers will need to establish how long the protection lasts beyond the five years of the study, and whether the benefits continue if the treatment is stopped. They will also need to determine if the drugs benefit patients with more advanced eye disease, elevated blood pressure, and detectable kidney disease, since these characteristics often define the type 1 population. Michael Mauer from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis led the study, which was built on research co-funded by JDRF in 2002.