Pentoxifylline for diabetic eye disease

Diabetic retinopathy or eye disease is the leading cause of blindness in developed countries. Nowadays its treatment is based on the use of laser therapy. Since this is a procedure which destroys important cells in the eye, drug approaches have been developed to prevent or improve lesions in the eyes of diabetic people. Studies with the agent pentoxyfilline suggest this may have an important role in the outcome and progression of diabetic retinopathy.
Unfortunately, a thorough search for high quality data did not reveal appropriate studies.

Authors' conclusions: 

No sound research to date has examined the treatment of diabetic retinopathy with pentoxyfilline in such a way as to indicate whether this form of intervention has a significant impact on the natural history of this clinical condition. The potential role of this substance in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy remains open to debate, and it is suggested that future research focusing on patient-relevant outcomes takes the opportunity of addressing this important issue directly.

Read the full abstract...

There is increasing evidence that capillary occlusion plays an important part in the development of diabetic retinopathy. Disaggregants, such as pentoxyfilline may influence the outcome and progression of diabetic retinopathy, but no systematic review of the literature on its efficacy and safety has been published to examine this hypothesis.


The aim of the current research was to review the literature in a systematic way in order to assess the effects of pentoxyfilline for diabetic retinopathy in methodologically robust trials. The null hypothesis was that pentoxyfilline has no influence on the progression of diabetic retinopathy or blindness.

Search strategy: 

A systematic search of electronic databases was carried out to identify publications. Relevant papers, written in any language, were accessed and assessed for data.

Selection criteria: 

Only randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs) evaluating the effects of pentoxyfilline in the treatment of diabetic retinopathy were to be included.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors independently assessed studies for inclusion criteria and for risk of bias.

Main results: 

A total of 97 publications were identified by the electronic search and two authors checked the abstracts. Of these, 17 were identified as potentially relevant trials providing information about treatment of patients with diabetic retinopathy using pentoxyfilline and were read in full. Unfortunately, no publication fulfilled our inclusion criteria.