GLP-1R agonists, a popular class of diabetes drugs, may also have a protective effect against glaucoma in diabetic patients, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
The researchers examined retrospective data of 1961 diabetic patients who were new users of this class of drugs and matched them to 4371 unexposed control subjects. After 150 days on average, 10 patients in the medicated group were newly diagnosed with glaucoma (0.5%) compared to 58 patients (1.3%) in the control group. These results indicate that GLP-1 receptor agonists could halve a diabetic patient’s risk of developing glaucoma.
The findings are supported by a Penn Medicine study from 2020, which found that GLP-1R agonists reduced neuroinflammation and prevented retinal ganglion cell death in mice. This class of drugs has also shown similarly protective effects against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases in animal models, and clinical trials are underway to test the medications against neurodegenerative diseases in humans.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, and people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop the condition.
“It was very encouraging to see that a popular diabetes medication could significantly reduce the risk of developing glaucoma, and our study suggests that these medications warrant further study in this patient population,” said Qi N. Cui, MD, PhD, with Brian VanderBeek, MD, MPH, both assistant professors of Ophthalmology at Penn.