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New drug-dispensing contact lens developed to treat glaucoma

Posted: 29/09/2016

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has recently published research on a new way of administering glaucoma medication to patients with the condition. Drugs are released gradually from a silicone ring worn on the surface of the eye like a contact lens, and so could one day replace the need for regular eye drops.

This could be hopeful news for the many patients who find using drops to be difficult or distressing. Some studies suggest that patient compliance with daily drops for glaucoma can be as low as 50%. When medication is required every day, some older or more forgetful patients miss out on receiving the benefits of their treatment, while others are restricted in the use of drops by issues such as arthritis. Many clinicians also note that requiring patients to administer their own eye medication can be messy and lead to imprecise doses, as often the drop would only partially reach the surface of the eye. All these factors reduce the likelihood that medication will be effective.

Glaucoma, which is marked by high internal eye pressure that damages the optic nerve, is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. While there is no cure, treating this disease requires sufferers to administer eye drops on a daily basis and so it is an ideal condition on which to base the new research. The lens, dispensing the glaucoma drug bimatropost, has been found to lower eye pressure in patients by about 20 per cent in a period of six months when compared to a control group. This makes it at least as effective as the alternative daily-drop method.

The idea itself is not new: contact lenses have been studied as a method of administering drugs to the eyes for almost half a century, but the slow-release mechanism of this new development makes it the first effective use of the idea. The lens consists of a thin film of polymers containing medication around the outside (the inside of the lens is clear, allowing the wearer to see). This can also be adapted to suit long or short sighted patients, just like a normal contact lens, and can be fitted without surgery by an ophthalmologist.

The new lens may prove to have applications for other conditions, such as dry eye and allergies, in future. The same technology could even be used to deliver multiple medicines at once, thus reducing the difficulties experienced by patients who have more than one eye condition. A larger study is due to begin later this year.

If you have concerns about eye care that you have received, Penningtons Manches has an experienced ophthalmology team who can help on a wide variety of eye-related claims. Please contact us for further information.

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