And so, Mauer said, "the data in the paper support starting this therapy in people who have early diabetic eye changes." Diabetes is a leading cause of vision loss, he noted.
But he added a word of caution. Both drugs can cause fetal damage so they should not be prescribed for women of child-bearing age, he said.
"Other than that, they have a remarkable safety profile," Mauer said.
The study was funded by Merck, which makes both drugs, along with the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Mauer said that the study results should not affect current use of the drugs in later stages of type 1 diabetes. "They are commonly used for people who already have signs of kidney disease," he said. "They have been shown to have more effective blood pressure effects than other drugs, and they seem to have additional advantages in slowing the progression of kidney disease."
The findings, though, are limited to type 1 diabetes, he said. "I'd be uncomfortable extrapolating from our study to type 2 diabetes," Mauer said. Type 2 diabetes, the more common form of the condition, generally occurs later in life as the body progressively produces less insulin.
The American Diabetes Association has more on type 1 diabetes.
SOURCES: Michael Mauer, M.D., professor, pediatrics and medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; July 2, 2009, New England Journal of Medicine
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