In a new research, scientists from Harvard Medical School have first developed new contact lenses that are permeated with medication to treat glaucoma. According to the WHO, glaucoma the second leading cause of blindness in the world. These new lenses are able to deliver medication slowly over a period of time, up to a month, to release the medication.
Currently, there is no cure for glaucoma. However, treatments are available where immediate treatment of glaucoma can delay its progression if it is diagnosed early. The most common form of medicine to treat glaucoma are eye drops.

Administered regularly, these eye drops lower eye pressure and some cause the eye to make less fluid. Others lower pressure by helping drain fluid from the eye.Nevertheless, the scientists have shown that their lenses are as effective as the eye drops in treating glaucoma – at least those of the simian variety.

Overcoming compliance issue of eye drops

The benefit of the lenses over eye drops comes from a compliance issue. Since eye drops that deliver latanoprost causes stinging and burning, it is difficult to administer. Moreover, some studies have shown that up to 50% of patients fail to comply with dosage requirements. The lens on the other hand, once placed in the eye, delivers the medicine conveniently and as intended.

"If we can address the problem of compliance, we may help patients adhere to the therapy necessary to maintain vision in diseases like glaucoma, saving millions from preventable blindness," said Dr. Joseph B. Ciolino, first author of the study, ophthalmologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and assistant professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.

"This study also raises the possibility that we may have an option for glaucoma that's more effective than what we have today."

Low- and high-dose medication in lenses work effectively

These new lenses are actually an improvement from a previous study made in 2014 which described slow-delivery lenses that keeps the medicine in a strip on the periphery of the lenses so as to not obstruct vision.In developing the new lenses, the scientists tested them out on four monkeys that had glaucoma. Two versions of the lens were tested – one with a low dose of medication and the other with a higher dose. The scientists found that the low-dose lenses were equally effective as eye drops in pressure relief, while the higher-doses worked even better. However, the scientists say more work is needed to confirm the high-dose results.

Their drug-delivery method through the contact lens may become a viable option for treating glaucoma. Hence, the lens developers are now designing clinical trials to see how well they’ll work in humans and work out any safety issues that might come.

Pellet injections as alternative to eye drops

In a different clinical trial, the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) announced last month that another new medication for glaucoma is being tested internationally in a two-year period study and Singapore is one of the first countries to take part. At the end of last year, the Singapore National Eye Centre began testing the new treatment on patients across public hospitals.

In the new glaucoma treatment, the medication is preloaded into a pellet (a millimetre in size) which is the injected into the front of the eye and slowly releases the medication. This can last for up to three to four months, when another pellet needs to be injected. MIMS

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