Internet Explorer is no longer supported by Microsoft. To browse the NIHR site please use a modern, secure browser like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.

Research finds drug widely used to treat eye condition has 'no benefit'

Published: 24 January 2020

Researchers have found that a drug used widely to treat a common eye condition has “no benefit” and should no longer be used.

Eplerenone, which is primarily used to treat heart failure, is currently offered widely by ophthalmologists as a treatment for central serous chorioretinopathy (CSCR) based on limited clinical data. The condition causes fluid to accumulate under the retina and can lead to vision loss in up to a third of patients. It is the fourth most common retinal disease and affects 10 in 100,000 men and two in 100,000 women mainly in their 30s and 40s.

The £1 million trial, funded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme, a Medical Research Council (MRC) and NIHR partnership, saw 111 patients at 22 sites across the UK receive either the medication or an identical placebo tablet for up to 12 months. The study was supported by the NIHR Clinical Research Network Ophthalmology Specialty.

The results from the trial, published today by The Lancet, showed there was no benefit of treating patients with eplerenone compared to those who took a placebo.

Eplerenone, which is one of a group of drugs that decrease the activity of hormones that regulate salt and water in the body, was found to improve vision in a small number of patients in early-stage research. However, it is also associated with side effects including raised potassium levels which can affect heart rhythm, and a decrease in blood pressure.

Professor Andrew Lotery, a consultant ophthalmologist at University Hospital Southampton, launched the first study into the long-term efficacy and safety of the drug for CSC.

“Despite a lack of robust clinical trial evidence, eplerenone and other similar drugs are widely used by ophthalmologists as first line therapy for the treatment of CSCR.” Professor Lotery explains.

“However, as these drugs can have side effects such as hyperkalaemia, which causes a rise in potassium and can affect heart rhythm, it was important to the NHS that we determine efficacy and safety.

“After a year of follow-up, this study found no benefit of treating patients with eplerenone compared to those patients that took a placebo tablet.”

He added: “This is an important practice-changing finding and should prompt ophthalmologists to stop treating CSCR with eplerenone, instead opting to participate in future trials of other potential interventions.” 

More information about the study is available on the NIHR Funding Awards website.

Latest news