Could eye drops replace injections for AMD?
Eye injections used to treat blindness-causing disorders such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may face competition in the future.
"Having these medications available in an eye-drop form has the potential to be much friendlier for patients."
Recent research from University College of London's Institute of Ophthalmology found—through animal models—that eye drops may be a viable alternative treatment. Researchers were able to deliver significant concentrations of nanoparticles loaded with the AMD drug Avastin to the back of the eye with eye drops.
This new research may one day help meet growing demand for treatment.
More than one million ocular injections were given in 2010 in the United States alone. AMD is the most common cause of vision loss in people age 50 or older, and the demand for AMD eye injections is growing as the American population ages.
Changing the way optometrists work
Drug-delivering eye drops for treating disorders such as AMD would change the practice of optometry. Now, it varies from state to state whether optometrists have the legal authority to administer eye injections, says Geoffrey Goodfellow, O.D., chair of the AOA Publications and Education Committee and faculty member at Illinois College of Optometry.
On the patient side, eye drop treatments would be a welcome alternative to ocular injections.
"Having these medications available in an eye drop form has the potential to be much friendlier for patients—and something that is easily within the scope of optometrists to perform," says Dr. Goodfellow.
Currently, optometrists' role in treating disorders such as AMD is often preventive, he says, including regular eye examinations plus patient education, and monitoring. The introduction of eye-drop treatment would make ODs even more active players in treating AMD.
First author of the research, Ben Davis, Ph.D., of the UCL's Institute of Ophthalmology, notes: "All the components we used are safe and well established in the field, meaning we could potentially move quite quickly to get the technology into trials in patients—but the timescales are dependent on funding."