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Cholesterol drug could prevent blindness

New research has found that cholesterol drug fenofibrate reduces the risk of diabetic retinopathy, one of the leading causes of blindness.

Researchers from the University of Sydney say the drug, which is traditionally used to treat cholesterol, could save the eyesight of many people with diabetes.

Patients who took the daily treatment cut their risk of needing laser therapy to improve their eyesight by a third, compared to those who took a dummy tablet.

The study involved nearly 10,000 people with diabetes between the ages of 50 to 75 years. It monitored the volunteers for five years.

A balancing act

"This is interesting research, as retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes and the leading cause of blindness in the working age UK population," said Jo Brodie, Senior Science Information Officer at Diabetes UK.

"This study appears to show that taking fenofibrate reduces the risk of developing retinopathy, in addition to its cholesterol-lowering effects.

"However, this would need to be weighed against medicating people who do not necessarily have cholesterol problems, or adding further medication to those already taking statins."

It is important that all people with diabetes have access to annual digital retinal screenings.

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