The primary objective of this study was to assess whether the topical administration of two neuroprotective drugs (brimonidine and somatostatin) could prevent or arrest retinal neurodysfunction in patients with type 2 diabetes. For this purpose, adults aged between 45 and 75 years with a diabetes duration ≥5 years and an Early Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy Study (ETDRS) level of ≤35 were randomly assigned to one of three arms: placebo, somatostatin, or brimonidine. The primary outcome was the change in implicit time (IT) assessed by multifocal electroretinography between baseline and at the end of follow-up (96 weeks). There were 449 eligible patients allocated to brimonidine (n = 152), somatostatin (n = 145), or placebo (n = 152). When the primary end point was evaluated in the whole population, we did not find any neuroprotective effect of brimonidine or somatostatin. However, in the subset of patients (34.7%) with preexisting retinal neurodysfunction, IT worsened in the placebo group (P < 0.001) but remained unchanged in the brimonidine and somatostatin groups. In conclusion, the topical administration of the selected neuroprotective agents appears useful in preventing the worsening of preexisting retinal neurodysfunction. This finding points to screening retinal neurodysfunction as a critical issue to identify a subset of patients in whom neuroprotective treatment might be of benefit.
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