Drug Improves Vision in Diabetic Retinopathy

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The eye drug Lucentis (ranibizumab injection), approved in August to treat diabetic macular edema, may also be useful in people with diabetic retinopathy, according to research recently presented at the 2012 Joint Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. More than 5.3 million adults in the United States have diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when diabetes damages tiny blood vessels in the eye’s retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye).

Lucentis is currently approved to treat wet age-related macular degeneration, macular edema following retinal vein occlusion, and diabetic macular edema, and it is administered via a monthly injection into the eye by a health-care professional. To determine the drug’s effects on the severity of diabetic retinopathy in people with the condition, researchers looked at three years of data from the RISE and RIDE trials — two identically designed, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies conducted by the drug’s manufacturer.

-- Keep an eye on your vision! Learn about preventive steps and treatments for diabetic retinopathy from retinal specialist Dr. Charles Wykoff. >>

Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: 257 people received a placebo (inactive) injection for the first two years of the study; 250 received a monthly 0.3-milligram dose of Lucentis; and 252 received a monthly 0.5-milligram dose of Lucentis. All those being given placebo injections were switched to a 0.5-milligram dose of Lucentis in the third year of the study.

For their analysis, the researchers looked at people with diabetic retinopathy, using various methods to determine whether worsening of the condition had occurred over the study period. Results from the two-year mark indicated that Lucentis prevented worsening of diabetic retinopathy and actually improved the condition in most people receiving it. Data from three years showed that the average improvement in vision (measure by the ability to read lines on an eye chart) was improved in both groups receiving the medicine and began to improve in people who were switched over from the placebo group.

The investigators also found that significantly more people who began in the placebo group and switched over to Lucentis treatment later in the trial progressed to proliferative diabetic retinopathy than in either of the groups that received the medicine from the beginning, suggesting that delaying the therapy might reduce the chance of improving the severity level of the condition.

The early data “provide strong evidence that ranibizumab is effective in reducing the severity of diabetic retinopathy,” according to Michael Ip, MD, who led the research.

The authors call for further trials on the subject, but recommend in the meantime that clinicians consider using the drug alone or in combination with laser therapy to reduce the severity of diabetic retinopathy.

To learn more, read the article “Drug Improves Sight in Diabetic Retinopathy” or see the study’s abstract from the 2012 Joint Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (select “title” and type “Effects of intravitreal ranibizumab on diabetic retinopathy severity: 36-month data from RISE and RIDE trials” into the search box to retrieve the abstract). And for more information about eye health, click here.

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