Statin therapy to help lower cholesterol levels may also be effective in decreasing the chance of developing diabetic retinopathy in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to new research published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

This population-based cohort study used the National Health Insurance Research database from 1998 to 2013 to identify patients with type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia. Researchers included 37,894 Taiwanese patients and compared outcomes between those taking statins and those not taking the drug. The study followed 18,947 patients in the statin group and 18,947 patients in the non-statin group for approximately seven years.

They found 2,004 patients in the statin group (10.6%) and 2,269 patients in the non-statin group (12%) developed diabetic retinopathy. Investigators found patients in the statin group had a significantly lower rate of both nonproliferative and proliferative diabetic retinopathy, vitreous hemorrhage, tractional retinal detachment and macular edema compared with the non-statin group. Additionally, the statin group had lower rates of interventions such as retinal laser treatment, intravitreal injection and vitrectomy, along with a smaller number of the interventions, intravitreal injections and vitrectomies. Statin therapy was also associated with lower risks of major adverse cardiovascular events, new-onset diabetic neuropathy and new-onset diabetic foot ulcers.

“Statin therapy was associated with a decreased risk of diabetic retinopathy and need for treatments for vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy in Taiwanese patients with type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

Kang EY, Chen TH, Garg SJ, et al. Association of statin therapy with prevention of vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy. JAMA Ophthalmol. January 10, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].