Eye problems in the elderly could be treated with a daily dose of Prozac

The antidepressant Prozac may help protect people from eye problems in old age, a new study suggests.

Prozac, also known as fluoxetine, is often taken once a day to help people with depression, but researchers at the University of Virginia (UVA) believe it may have an additional benefit in that ‘it prevents age-related macular degeneration.

The condition usually occurs after a person is 50 years old and results in worsening eyesight. It is believed that one in 20 in the UK over 65 suffers from the disease, which is irreversible and incurable.

It is caused when pieces of malicious DNA wake up and activate a destructive part of the immune system which then breaks down cells in the retina.

Laboratory tests performed by Dr Bradley Gelfand have found that Prozac prevents this process from occurring, and analysis of more than 100 million Americans over the age of 50 has found that people taking Prozac as a treatment mental health problems were 15% less likely to develop the disease.

“It is tempting to think of all the untapped therapeutic potential of drugs on the shelves of pharmacies”

“These findings are an exciting example of the promise of drug reorientation, using existing drugs in new and unexpected ways,” said Gelfand, of the Center for Advanced Vision Science at UVA.

“Ultimately, the best way to test whether fluoxetine is beneficial for macular degeneration is to conduct a prospective clinical trial.

“While we’ve had great success with the approach of using real-world patient data, we may have only started to scratch the surface of finding new uses for old drugs,” Dr Gelfand said.

“It’s tempting to think of all the untapped therapeutic potential of drugs on drugstore shelves. “

Scientists in all disciplines are trying to find effective ways to reuse drugs, because developing a treatment from scratch is not guaranteed to work, takes several years, and is often prohibitively expensive.

“On average, a new drug approved by the FDA takes 10 to 12 years and costs $ 2.8 billion (current dollars) to develop,” write the researchers in their article, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .

“Our identification of the unrecognized therapeutic activity of an existing FDA-approved drug using big data mining, coupled with the demonstration of its efficacy in a disease-relevant model, could dramatically accelerate and reduce the cost of drug development. “

“Prospective trial could benefit millions of patients suffering from the risk of irremediable blindness”

The anonymized data used in the study was pulled from databases of medical insurance companies and included details about a person’s drug program as well as any health concerns.

Researchers looked at U.S. citizens between 2010 and 2018 and took into account factors such as race, age, gender, smoking, and weight.

A database, which contained 15 million records, showed that the antidepressant made people 22% less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration.

However, in the database of 90 million individuals, the protective effect was only a 9% decrease in risk.

It was after combining the two databases that the team reached a figure of 15% for the protective effect of Prozac.

“A strength of our health insurance database analyzes is that the results were replicated in two independent cohorts that include a substantial fraction of American adults with health insurance,” the researchers write in the study.

“In addition, we adjusted for confounding factors and performed propensity score matching, which increases the internal validity of our conclusion.

“Demonstrate the benefits of fluoxetine for [age-related macular degeneration] in a prospective trial could benefit millions of patients suffering from the risk of irremediable blindness.

“It would also be interesting to determine whether fluoxetine is beneficial in other inflammasome diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.”


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