An injectable drug appears to improve the vision of people with a condition related to the aging eye. The condition can cause permanent vision loss if left untreated.
As the eye ages, it is normal for the vitreous—the thick clear gel that fills the center of the eye—to liquefy and separate from the retina at the back of the eye. In some cases, parts of the vitreous remain attached to and may pull on the retina, causing vision distortion, vision loss, and even blindness.
Previous studies have estimated that 1.5 percent of the population suffers from eye diseases associated with or caused by the condition called vitreomacular adhesion (VMA). The standard of care for patients at high risk for vision loss is a vitrectomy, or surgical removal of the vitreous.
Improvements without surgery
“These are the first large studies that document patient-reported visual improvement after injection of ocriplasmin for symptomatic VMA,” says Rohit Varma, director of the Eye Institute at University of Southern California and lead author of the study.
“These improvements were achieved without surgery, consequently avoiding the risks, recovery time, possible complications, and costs associated with surgery. This is an important finding in our search for safer and more effective treatments to prevent blindness.”
In the two randomized and masked Phase 3 clinical trials, researchers at the USC Eye Institute in Los Angeles, Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, and Cole Eye Institute in Cleveland studied 652 patients with symptomatic VMA who opted for treatment with ocriplasmin at clinic-based centers in the United States and Europe.
Across the two studies, 464 patients received the drug and 188 received a placebo. Researchers performed complete eye examinations at regular intervals before and up to six months after injection, with the option to recommend and perform surgery if vision deteriorated.
As reported in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, patients treated with the ocriplasmin injection reported greater improvements in vision-related activities and visual function and were less likely to have experienced worse vision at six months when compared to patients who received the placebo.
Ocriplasmin, marketed as Jetrea by the biopharmaceutical company ThromboGenics, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012 and commercially launched in 2013. The clinical studies and analyses were funded by ThromboGenics. Varma serves as a consultant for Aerie, Allergan, AqueSys, Bausch and Lomb, and Genentech.