One of the traditional glaucoma treatments is medicated eye drops. These drops are effective in lowering intraocular pressure, but they must be administered at specific intervals. Many glaucoma patients forget to administer their eye drops or do not administer the drops correctly, which means their eye pressure is not within a safe range. Uncontrolled eye pressure can result in permanent damage to the optic nerve and irreversible vision loss.
For 50 years, researchers have been trying to find a way to use contact lenses to deliver medication for eye conditions that are treated with eye drops, but they have been unsuccessful until now. The contact lens is coated with a thin film of drug-encapsulated polymers. The polymers release the drug slowly from the outer part of the lens, while the inside of the lens remains clear for vision.
The contact lenses were tested on four monkeys with glaucoma in one eye. Over nine weeks, the monkeys wore low-dose contact lenses for one week, used medicated eye drops for five days, wore high-dose contact lenses for one week, and had breaks of three weeks with no treatment between each type of drug delivery. The contacts with the low dose of medication were more effective in lowering intraocular pressure than the medicated eye drops, even though the drops contained a higher concentration of medication. The contact lenses with the high dose lowered intraocular pressure the most effectively, but more studies need to be conducted. Researchers are also hoping to conduct clinical trials on humans soon.
“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,” Dr. Joseph Ciolino, an ophthalmologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and an assistant professor at Harvard, said in a press release. “This study also raises the possibility that we may have an option for glaucoma that’s more effective than what we have today” (Source: UPI).