In June, the FDA approved a new intraocular device for the treatment of so-called retinal vein occlusions. In this disease, the whole or partial venous tree of the retina becomes occluded. Secondary swelling of the macula occurs thereby reducing vision. Current therapy involves only laser treatment.
This new drug delivery system, marketed by Allergan Pharmaceuticals, will be available later this year. It will involve an in-office injection of the small device right into the eye. Dexamethasone, a well studied steroid, will be released for about 6-9 months. The system, itself, will biodegrade as the drug is released.
The Ozurdex® system was noted to improve vision in up to 30% of patients suffering from RVO.
What does this have to do with diabetic retinopathy? There has been evidence over the past few years that direct injection of steroids was beneficial to patients with RVO. Similarly, there is evidence that steroids also may improve diabetic macular edema AND age related macular degeneration. Doctors, like myself, have been injecting steroids for these entities for several years, using the medications “off-label.” Don’t worry, using medications off-label is legit. In the end, this steroid implant may be a very useful tool to combating macular edema in diabetics! It is just around the corner!
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist