PHILADELPHIA, PA – A popular class of diabetes drugs called GLP-1R agonists (Trulicity and Rybelsus) may also protect against glaucoma in diabetic patients, according to a new study by researchers at the University’s Scheie Eye Institute of Pennsylvania (Penn) Perelman School of Medicine. The results were published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
The researchers looked at retrospective data from 1,961 diabetic patients who were new users of this class of drugs and compared them to 4,371 unexposed control subjects. After 150 days on average, 10 patients in the drug group were newly diagnosed with glaucoma (0.5 percent) compared to 58 patients (1.3 percent) in the control group. The results suggest that GLP-1 receptor agonists can halve the risk of developing glaucoma in a diabetic patient.
The results are supported by a 2020 Penn Medicine study, which found that GLP-1R agonists reduced neuroinflammation and prevented retinal ganglion cell death in mice. This class of drugs has also shown similar protective effects against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in animal models, and clinical trials are underway to test the drugs against neurodegenerative diseases in humans.
Glaucoma affects 3 million Americans and is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop eye disease.
“It was very encouraging to see that a popular diabetes drug could significantly reduce the risk of developing glaucoma, and our study suggests that these drugs merit further study in this patient population,” said Qi N. Cui, MD, PhD, with Brian VanderBeek, MD, MPH, both assistant professors of ophthalmology at Penn.
– This press release originally appeared on the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine website