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Alternative Drug Delivery Systems for Glaucoma

"I forgot to put my glaucoma drop in last night." Every patient with glaucoma has had this experience, and every eye doctor has heard this from patients.

For most people, glaucoma is a chronic slowly progressive disease. For medical therapy to be effective, eye drops must be put in every day.

Treatment of any chronic disease is difficult, but with glaucoma it is particularly a challenge since there is no immediately perceived benefit; the eye drops don't seem to help you to see better or feel better, and in some cases you may feel worse due to side effects. Combined with the difficulty of getting the drop in the eye, it's no surprise that alternative ways of delivering the drug into the eye would be welcome for many glaucoma patients.

Amazing New Technologies

New and novel proposals for glaucoma drug delivery were the topic of a session at the Glaucoma 360 New Horizons Forum in San Francisco (presented by Glaucoma Research Foundation). The session highlighted a variety of amazing new technologies that we hope will soon become available to improve the medical therapy of glaucoma. The possibilities were wide ranging, and included:

  • A polymer, like a contact lens, that would contain drug and sit under the eyelid and release the medication over several months (from Amorphex Therapeutics, LLC)
  • Use of microneedles to inject medication into a specific spot for it to be most effective (ClearSide Biomedical, Inc.)
  • Implantable extended-release devices using engineered highly-precise microparticles and nanoparticles (Envisia Therapeutics)
  • Delivery devices or technology to allow a constant delivery of medication over months or years (pSivida and SKS Ocula, LLC)
  • Polymer-based intraocular delivery technologies that would allow customizable sustained release of all therapeutic classes (GrayBug).
  • Drops that allow medication to get into the eye more easily (Kala Pharmaceuticals)
  • Tear duct plugs that release medication (Ocular Therapeutix)

Wouldn't it be great to have every drop you put in your eye work better? Wouldn't it be an improvement in your quality of life if you could get an injection or a miniature device placed every few months rather than take drops every day? The potential of all these cutting-edge technologies is that soon we will have a better way to get medications in the eye for treating glaucoma. We hope that research like this will lead to more effective treatments and more convenience compared to putting in eye drops.

These new devices and technologies are still being researched and developed. Much work needs to be done before we know exactly how well these new drug delivery options will perform. But it is gratifying to know that new and better ways to treat glaucoma are on the way. Hopefully, this kind of alternative drug delivery technology will result in better preservation of vision for many people with glaucoma.

Article by Ronald L. Gross, MD. Dr. Gross is Professor, the Jane McDermott Schott Chair of Ophthalmology and Director of the West Virginia University Eye Institute at the West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown, WV. He co-moderated the session "New Horizons in Glaucoma Drug Delivery" at the 2014 New Horizons Forum.

Last reviewed on October 29, 2017

This article appeared in the September 2014 issue of Gleams.


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