Daily medicated eye drops are the first line of treatment for glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness. The drops relieve pressure in the eye, a significant risk factor for glaucoma. But they’re not ideal: their delivery is imprecise, they can cause stinging and burning and patients often struggle to administer them. Adherence is poor: in one study based on insurance claims data, nearly half of patients who had filled a glaucoma prescription stopped topical glaucoma therapy within six months.
Engineered contact lenses dispensing glaucoma medication gradually could vastly improve adherence, helping hang onto their eyesight longer. In a pre-clinical study of glaucoma published online this week in the journal Ophthalmology, slow-release lenses lowered eye pressure at least as well as daily eye drops containing the drug latanoprost — and, in a higher-dose form, possibly more so.
“We found that a lower-dose contact lens delivered the same amount of pressure reduction as latanoprost drops, and a higher-dose lens, interestingly enough, had better pressure reduction than the drops in our small study,” says Joseph Ciolino, MD, an ophthalmologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, the study’s first author. “Based on our preliminary data, the lenses have not only the potential to improve compliance for patients, but also the potential of providing better pressure reduction than the drops.”
Contact lenses have been studied as a means of ocular drug delivery for nearly 50 years, yet many have failed, dispensing the drug too quickly. Some earlier designs involved simply soaking the lens in the drug solution, and released it within hours. Daniel Kohane, MD, PhD, director of the Laboratory for Biomaterials and Drug Delivery at Boston Children’s Hospital and senior author on the paper, took the problem to his lab.
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