Traditional eye drops, while the go-to medication option for glaucoma patients, still have lots of room for improvement. Dosing regimens can be difficult to manage or remember, irritation or redness can occur, and much of the medication gets blinked away before reaching the eye.1 Because of these challenges, researchers are working to make taking glaucoma medication easier. One avenue showing particular promise is sustained-release medication.
Sustained-release medication evenly releases a drug over time, either chemically or mechanically. That way, medications that were once a daily struggle can be applied weekly, monthly, or at even longer intervals, which can increase medication compliance and result in a drug delivery system that is both less inconvenient and more efficient.
Micropumps and Medicated Contact Lenses
There are many sustained-release options in the pipeline currently. For example, University of Southern California’s Roski Eye Institute developed a micropump that is implanted directly into the eye. It is then controlled by a wireless device and replenished by injecting medication through a port. Initial clinical trials were very promising, spurring further trials.2
Meanwhile, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School have been working on a contact lens that not only corrects eyesight but also contains a drug-polymer film along the edge that slowly dispenses glaucoma medication. This study convincingly raises the possibility that we have new options for glaucoma that will be more effective than current methods.3
Biodegradable Implants Take Things to the Next Level
Perhaps the most ambitious take on sustained-release technology is Allergan’s biodegradable sustained-release bimatoprost implant. This implant uses a prefilled, single-use applicator system. Once it is in place in the eye, it slowly dispenses the drug and then biodegrades, making device removal unnecessary. The reduction in intraocular pressure in the implant group was clinically significant with more than 70% of the implant eyes not requiring topical pressure-lowering rescue medication or a second bimatoprost injection. According to the researchers, the results are promising―it provided rapid and sustained lowering of intraocular pressure, exactly as intended.4
A Future Without Eye Drops
All these new approaches to glaucoma medication are slated to reach the doctor’s office in the coming years. This means that soon, patients may no longer need to deal with the hassle that comes with current eye drop medications.
First posted on May 12, 2017; Reviewed on June 22, 2022