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Silicone ring may be superior to drops for glaucoma patients

While patients often do not follow instructions for eye drops, the ring handles drug release and is monitored by a doctor.

By Stephen Feller
Silicone ring may be superior to drops for glaucoma patients
The Helio is a silicone ring loaded with the glaucoma drug bimatoprost, which is then inserted into the eye. Worn for six months at a time, a phase 2 clinical trial found it reduced pressure from glaucoma by about 20 percent, researchers report. Photo by ForSight VISION5

WASHINGTON, May 5 (UPI) -- Many glaucoma patients do not adhere to instructions for prescription eye drops, but a timed-release drug-eluting ring placed in the eye reduced patients' symptoms in a clinical trial, researchers report.

The ring, called Helios, was shown to reduce eye pressure during six-month trials, in comparison to standard drops used for glaucoma, suggesting a more reliable treatment that is easier for patients to use and doctors to monitor.

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The ocular insert releases the drug bimatoprost, already sold in liquid drop form by the company Allergan as Lumigan for glaucoma, and approved in 2008 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a cosmetic form meant to lengthen eyelashes called Latisse.

Helios is being developed and marketed by ForSight Vision5, with results from a clinical trial expected to be presented this week at the 2016 Ophthalmology Innovation Summit in New Orleans ahead of publication.

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Meant to be worn for six months at a time, with checkups, researchers say the increased surveillance required by the ring could also lead to better treatment of the condition.

"In making effective treatments easier for patients, the hope is that we can reduce vision loss from glaucoma, and possibly other diseases," Dr. James Brandt, director of the University of California Davis Medical Center Glaucoma Service, said in a press release. "What is exciting is that this is just one of several sustained-release drug delivery methods designed to help patients who have trouble taking daily eye drops."

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For the trial, published in the journal Ophthalmology, researchers recruited 130 patients, treating 64 with the Helios ring containing bimatoprost and the other 66 with a ring that did not contain the drug but used another eye drop called timolol. Both groups also were given artificial tears.

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Among patients treated with bimatoprost-containing rings, eye pressure dropped from 6.4 millimeters of mercury to 3.2, compared to those given timolol experiencing a decline from 6.4 millimeters of mercury to 4.2. The overall decline among patients receiving bimatoprost was 20 percent during the six-month trial, researchers said.

"In addition to addressing the enormous problem of poor adherence to glaucoma medications, a drug delivery approach that encourages patients to return every few months for treatment may also improve disease surveillance allowing for appropriate adjustment of therapy," Dr. Kuldev Singh, a professor of ophthalmology at Stanford University, said in a press release.

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