October 21, 2021
Brad Gelfand, Ph.D., in the laboratory

Bradley Gelfand, PhD, is giving us new insights into macular degeneration and other causes of vision loss. Image credit: Dan Addison, UVA Health

An antidepressant best known as Prozac could offer the first treatment for the leading cause of blindness among people over 50, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

UVA’s Bradley D. Gelfand, PhD, and collaborators have found early evidence that the drug fluoxetine may be effective against atrophic (or “dry”) age-related macular degeneration, a condition that affects nearly 200 million people worldwide. The drug has shown promise in the scientists’ lab tests and animal models, and the researchers bolstered by their results by examining two huge insurance databases encompassing more than 100 million Americans. That analysis concluded that patients taking fluoxetine were less likely to develop atrophic macular degeneration (AMD).

Based on their findings, the researchers are urging clinical trials to test the drug in patients with AMD. If successful, they believe the drug could be administered either orally or via a long-lasting implant in the eye.