One of the biggest issues facing glaucoma patients is remembering to take their prescribed eye drops every day. It is estimated that nearly half of all glaucoma patients miss their daily dosage at least once a week, making them much more susceptible to vision loss and blindness.
The good news is that a new method of introducing glaucoma medication into the body has been developed, and is currently being tested.
A medicated silicone ring designed to be placed directly on the eye is able to lower internal eye pressure by about 20%, and do so continuously for six months. Managing internal eye pressure is crucial in keeping glaucoma under control, because eye pressure that is too high can potentially damage the optic nerve.
“In making effective treatments easier for patients, the hope is that we reduce vision loss from glaucoma, and possibly other eye diseases,” said study author James D. Brandt, M.D., director of the UC Davis Medical Center Glaucoma Service.
The ring is currently in phase 2 clinical trials, and ophthalmologists are testing the device on 130 patients with glaucoma or ocular hypertension. Half of the patients wear the ring treated with glaucoma drug bimatoprost, while the other half are used as a control group.
An ophthalmologist places the ring on the surface of the eye, just underneath the eyelids. The device requires no surgery in order to be applied, but does require occasional eye drops in the event the patient’s eyes begin to feel dry.
Over a six month period, patients wearing the medicated rings experienced drops in eye pressure between 3.2 to 6.4 mmHg, which is approximately a 20% drop from the initial pressure levels. An added benefit is that the ring feels comfortable and natural for a large majority of the test patients.
Of those wearing the ring, medicated or otherwise, only 6% reported any sensations of discomfort, which included itchiness and redness. Nearly 15% of patients had the ring dislodge at one point, but it was re-inserted easily.
A phase 3 study of a larger group of patients is expected to begin later in 2016.