contact lens
Glaucoma
Vision Health

Glaucoma: Drug-Dispensing Contact Lens Lowers Eye Pressure

A contact lens designed to deliver medication gradually to the eye could improve outcomes for patients with conditions requiring treatment with eye drops, which are often imprecise and difficult to self-administer. In a study published online on August 29th 2016 in Ophthalmology, a team of researchers have shown that a novel contact lens-based system, which uses a strategically placed drug polymer film to deliver medication gradually to the eye, is at least as effective, and possibly more so, as daily latanoprost eye drops in a pre-clinical model for glaucoma. (Editor’s note: This is only one of several types of eye drops for treating glaucoma.)

A release from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary quotes first author Joseph B. Ciolino, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, as saying, “We found that a lower-dose contact lens delivered the same amount of pressure reduction as the latanoprost drops, and a higher-dose lens, interestingly enough, had better pressure reduction than the drops in our small study. 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.”

The release notes that glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. While there is no cure for glaucoma, ocular medications aim to lower pressure in the eye with the goal of preventing vision loss. Currently, the medications are delivered as eye drops, which sometimes cause stinging and burning, can be difficult to self-administer and are subsequently associated with poor patient compliance, with some studies suggesting that compliance is as low as 50 percent.

“This promising delivery system removes the burden of administration from the patient and ensures consistent delivery of medication to the eye, eliminating the ongoing concern of patient compliance with dosing,” said Janet B. Serle, M.D., a glaucoma specialist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Contact lenses have been studied as a means of ocular drug delivery for nearly 50 years, yet many such lenses are ineffective because they dispense the drug too quickly. The authors of the Ophthalmology study designed the contact lens to allow for a more controlled drug release. The researchers had previously shown in a 2014 study that the lens is capable of delivering medication continuously for one month.

The researchers designed a novel contact lens that contains a thin film of drug-encapsulated polymers in the periphery. The drug-polymer film slows the drug coming out of the lens. Because the drug film is on the periphery, the center of the lens is clear, allowing for normal visual acuity, breathability and hydration. The lenses can be made with no refractive power or with the ability to correct the refractive error in nearsighted or farsighted eyes.

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