Medication Approved to Treat All Forms of Diabetic Retinopathy

One of the risks associated with diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. This condition affects approximately 7.7 million Americans and is the leading cause of blindness in adults with diabetes between the ages of 20 and 74. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when high blood sugar damages blood vessels in the retina. It can impact individuals in a variety of ways, from blood vessels swelling and leaking to closing off completely to abnormal blood vessel growth. All of these situations can adversely impact vision and have the potential to cause blindness.

When the blood vessels leak causing the macula to swell, this is known as diabetic macular edema or DME. In October 2016, Genentech, a subsidiary of Roche, received FDA approval for the drug Lucentis as a treatment for diabetic retinopathy with DME.  This drug is an anti-vascular endothelial growth factor agent. Two studies were conducted on 759 patients and found positive results in reducing vision impairment.

Due to this success, Roche applied to have the drug approved in patients with diabetic retinopathy without DME. The studies showed that 38 percent of patients without DME experienced at least a two-step improvement in their diabetic retinopathy, and 28 percent experienced at least a three-step improvement. Since diabetic retinopathy is considered an area of high unmet need, the FDA granted priority review of Lucentis. In turn, Lucentis was approved as the only FDA-approved medication for the treatment of all types of diabetic retinopathy in patients both with and without DME in February 2017.

With more than 29 million Americans living with diabetes, this breakthrough has the potential to make a positive impact on visual health. Uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes puts individuals at greater risk for diabetic retinopathy and vision loss. This medication may help improve vision loss and protect eye health. The Diabetes Research Connection looks forward to learning more about the efficacy of this medication and its potential to lead the way to more treatment options. Every day researchers are striving to learn more about type 1 diabetes and develop better ways of preventing, diagnosing, treating, and potentially curing this condition. The Diabetes Research Connection provides necessary funding to support early-career scientists in their research. To learn more and support these studies, visit the Diabetes Research Connection website.

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