Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Now there’s growing reason to think they may also be associated with a decreased risk of open-angle glaucoma.
Some of the first evidence came from a 2012 study that examined more than 500,000 people with elevated cholesterol who took statins continuously for two years. Statin users had an 8 percent lower risk of open-angle glaucoma and a 9 percent lower risk of progressing from early signs of glaucoma to clinical disease than nonusers.
In a more recent study, published in 2017 in JAMA Ophthalmology, the same researchers looked at whether certain doses or types of statins were more effective in protecting against glaucoma. Among the more than 25,000 study participants who were taking a statin but did not have glaucoma, those who filled prescriptions for statins continuously for two years had a 21 percent lower risk of developing glaucoma than nonusers. But the specific type of statin and dosage made no difference. Taking the highest dose (80 mg) was no more effective than taking a lower dose (40 mg). And an inexpensive generic statin was just as effective as more expensive, brand-name drugs.
For now, statins cannot be prescribed specifically for glaucoma since additional studies are necessary. But for people with high cholesterol who are already on a statin, it’s reassuring to know that the drug may have other protective benefits.