Parkinson's Drug Doubles as Treatment for Macular Degeneration

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is an eye disorder associated with aging that severely affects a person's quality of life in terms of their ability to read, drive and recognize people. Unforunately, 1.8 million Americans  suffer from AMD, which is the most common form of blindness among seniors. It destroys central  vision and in many cases, leaves only peripheral sight. The unexpected use of a drug used to treat Parkinson's Disease represents a major breakthrough in the prevention or delay of Macular Degeneration.


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L-DOPA is an amino acid and hormone made naturally by plants and animals that is often prescribed as a treatment for Parkinson's Disease because it crosses the blood-brain barrier and increases dopomine concentrations which are brain chemicals that deplete in the brains of people afflicted with the disease. It is both novel and exciting that an established drug might be effective against a disease other than what it was intended to treat.


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A retrospective data analysis complied from several research centers in the United States and partly funded by the Bright Focus Foundation  which is a non-profit organization located in Clarkson, Maryland, has confirmed that there is a beneficial association between the drug levodopa (L-DOPA) and AMD.This represents a groundbreaking advancement in the battle against the life-altering malady. This new study pioneers a novel approach to finding a new treatment for AMD.

In the words of Brian McKay, a research associate professor in opthamology and vision science at the University of Arizona and senior author of the study: "Rather than looking at what might cause AMD, we instead wondered why certain people are protected from AMD. This approach had never been done before."

Researchers began by comparing the incidence of AMD between those patients taking L-DOPA and those who were not via  data already collected from the records of 37,000patients from the Marshfield Clinic, a healthcare  system in Wisconsin. This analysis indicated that those patients receiving the drug were less likely to develop AMD, and that when it occurred, it began later in their lives.

Another larger analysis revealed that the drug also delayed or prevented  the progression of AMD from the dry to the wet form. Results have been published in the American Journal of Medicine and may well lead to a cleaer undertsanding as to how this condition takes hold of a normal eye.


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 Future ramifications of this study

Researchers plan to launch a clinical trial to further test the drug's ability to prevent AMD. According to Stacy Pagos Haller, president and CEO of Bright Focus, "This exciting breakthrough shows the power of scientific discovery to give hope to millions of people across the nation and the world. Their methodology is a reminder that 'big data' is not a buzzword. It is a bold and innovative new approach to science.

Can you think of other drugs that may have been intended for one use and have been found to be effective in other instances?

Closing thoughts on blindness:

My blindness doesn't define my life. ~ Andrea Bocelli