Eyeglasses and eye chart

Until recently, there were no drugs approved for treating diabetic retinopathy. In recent weeks, however, that situation has changed.

Yesterday (March 25), Eylea was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. This approval follows Lucentis which was granted approval for retinopathy on the 6 February.

Before February, both Lucentis and Eylea had been approved as drugs but their approval had been limited for the treatment of diabetic macular edema (DME) a specific condition that can result from diabetic retinopathy. As of yesterday though, there are now two drugs are now approved to cover not just one possible outcome of retinopathy but the wider condition of diabetic retinopathy itself.

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition which affects a large proportion of people with diabetes. The FDA reports that data from 2008 shows evidence that one third of people with diabetes over the age of 40 had some degree of retinopathy.

Alternative to laser therapy

Both Eylea and Lucentis are a form of drugs known as anti-VEGF drugs (inhibitors of vascular endothelial growth factor). The drugs are taken as intra-vitreal injections, injections into the fluid within the eye. The drugs represent an alternative treatment option to laser photocoagulation therapy.

Eylea treatment involves an injections once a month for the first five months and then injections once every two months after that.

Clinical trials showed that after 100 weeks since the initiation of treatment, patients taking Eylea showed significant improvement in terms of the severity of their diabetic retinopathy when compared to patients that did not receive the treatment.

Eylea can have side effects, which should be considered by patients and their physicians, including eye pain, cataracts, increased pressure within the eye and vitreal detachment.