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Pill to slow diabetes-related eye damage approved

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The medicines watchdog has approved a new treatment to slow the deterioration of eyesight associated with type 2 diabetes.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has given the all-clear for medical practitioners to prescribe the drug Lipidil, the first tablet developed to manage diabetic retinopathy – a potentially debilitating condition that can lead to serious vision impairment or even blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy affects around 35 per cent of all diabetics, and is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care, with estimates that 93 million people worldwide have the condition.

All diabetics are at risk of developing the condition, which causes damage to blood vessels in the retina that can lead to blurred or patchy vision. It can result in partial or complete blindness if left untreated.

Until now, treatment has centred on improving glycaemic control to curb the progression of the condition, while laser surgery if often used in more advanced stages of the impairment.

But Lipidil, produced by pharmaceutical giant Abbott, is being promoted as an alternative treatment that may slow the development of the condition and, potentially, reduce the need for more invasive treatment.

Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology and Eye Health at the University of Sydney Paul Mitchell backed the potential benefits of Lipidil in a statement issued by Abbott.

Professor Mitchell said vision impairment and loss were common complications associated with diabetes that could have devastating effects for sufferers.

“As diabetic retinopathy progresses, it can affect [a] person’s ability to do everyday tasks such as reading, being able to drive a car or holding down a job,” he said. “The availability of Lipidil provides a non-invasive treatment option for patients who are showing signs of diabetic retinopathy.”

People with type 2 diabetes are advised to have regular eye checks because in many cases diabetic retinopathy –particularly in its early stages – has no symptoms and can be hard to detect without proper examination.

Adrian Rollins