Monday, June 21, 2010

Exciting Developments in Macular Degeneration Treatment

Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in older Americans. It come in two general varieties: wet (exudative) and dry (non-exudative). The defining difference between the two types is the presence or absence of bleeding and leaking from abnormal blood vessels.

Wet macular degeneration is potentially devastating, with rapid visual loss that can occur very suddenly. Several effective treatments have developed over the last 15 or 20 years, from laser photocoagulation to the injection of substances that cause the leaking and bleeding blood vessels to shrivel up and close. Wet macular degeneration is no longer a sentence to a lifetime of blindness.

On the other hand, up until very recently there hasn't really been any treatment for dry Macular Degeneration other than taking high doses of the anti-oxidant vitamens A, C, E, zinc, and copper. Formulations like Ocuvit PreserVision have been shown to slow the progression of dry AMD. There are now two exciting medicines in the FDA pipeline to treat dry AMD, one oral medication and one that is an eyedrop.

The oral medication is called Fenritinide and it is made by Sirion Therapeutics. This medicine has been shown in phase I and II studies to decrease the rate of worsening of dry AMD by up to 50%. The only side effect thus far is a decrease in night vision in some of the study patients. The results have been so positive that Fenritinide has been "fast-tracked" to phase III by the FDA.

The second exciting development is OT-551, an eyedrop made by Othera Pharmaceuticals. This medicine is in phase II after showing a positive effect with little to now side effects. We are very hopeful that it, too, will emerge from phase II with a "fast-track" designation so that  we will potentially have TWO options to treat dry AMD.

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