12.04.2012

New drug "can halt eye disease"

New drug "can halt eye disease"

By Adrian Galbreth

Although many drugs are trialled and fail each year, some are proven to be effective in treating life-altering conditions, and the latest to demonstrate its efficacy is a drug that can prevent eye disease.

The results of a new randomised controlled trial at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London involving patients with persistent clinically significant diabetic macular edema suggests that the drug bevacizumab can be an effective treatment.

Macular edema is common in people with diabetes and involves the swelling of the retina, though for the last 30 years macular laser therapy has been the main treatment.

Although the procedure reduces the risk of moderate visual loss, visual acuity only improves in around three per cent of patients, so better treatments have been sought – something the new study addresses.

The bevacizumab trial found suggests the greater efficacy of the drug, compared with macular laser therapy, was maintained through 24 months.

A previous study found the drug was more effective over 12 months and so the finding is significant as it suggests the medication has long-term benefits, noted the authors of the study, which was published online Archives of Ophthalmology, a JAMA Network publication.

Dr Ranjan Rajendram, from Moorfields Eye Hospital, said the randomised controlled trial of 80 patients that evaluated intravitreous bevacizumab and modified macular laser therapy has led to many conclusions.

"This investigator-initiated single-centre study provides evidence for the longer-term use of bevacizumab in the treatment of persistent diabetic macular edema," he added.

"Visual acuity benefit was maintained through two years with a reduced injection frequency in the second year despite the long duration of diabetic macular edema and multiple macular laser therapy before entering the study."

He said the finding will be "reassuring" to eye experts charged with delivery of the new treatment, which is still in its relative infancy.

by Alexa Kaczka


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