Medication injected into the eye is replacing surgery in the treatment of certain retinal diseases

In the last 5 years, the sight of 75% of patients treated has been improved, compared to 20% after surgery

Medication injected directly into the eye is providing good results in the treatment of macular degeneration, retinal vein obstruction and diabetic retinopathy, according to experts gathered at the Trends in Surgical and Medical Retina conference, taking place today and tomorrow in Barcelona, and organised by IMO and the European School for Advanced Studies in Ophthalmology.

As explained during the conference, since the middle of the last decade, intravitreal injections have become an important alternative to surgery, and its unstoppable development "will constitute a giant leap forward in the treatment of retinal diseases in the next decade," explained Dr Borja Corcóstegui, the conference coordinator.

According to the specialist, "the resounding success of these treatments is particularly evident in macular degeneration, whose vision improvement rate has increased from 20% to 75% thanks to new medication that is injected into the eye, such as Lucentis and Avastin," also used with similar success in patients with diabetic retinopathy.

These two treatments will soon be joined by a third one, which, as explained in the conference, is able to improve the results of current drugs in the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It is called VEGF-Trap-Eye, and IMO has been involved in its clinical trials. Its results, presented last March, show that the slow-release anti-VEGF molecule it contains requires fewer intraocular injections to maintain the visual acuity of patients with AMD.

The experts gathered at the meeting also made reference to another slow-release drug called Ozurdex for the treatment of macular oedema secondary to retinal vein obstruction, whose use has just been approved in Europe. It is an injectable and biodegradable long-acting corticosteroid implant (dexamethasone), which has become the first licensed treatment in Europe for macular oedema in patients with retinal vein occlusion (RVO).

Retinal vein obstruction produces an inflammatory response that can cause macular oedema, an excessive accumulation of fluid in the retina and thickening of the macula. RVO is the second most common retinal vascular disease, after diabetic retinopathy, and is a cause of significant and common loss of vision. The new implant slowly releases dexamethasone into the vitreous cavity and acts locally to control the oedema, reduce swelling around the occlusion and, therefore, improve the patient’s visual acuity.