The joke about “needing longer arms” as you get older & try to read small print is quite common.
The cause: a natural drop in the ability of our eyes to focus on objects nearby, or presbyopia – is the reason why so many people end up having to read glasses in older age.
Now, for the 1st time, there may be another solution on hand.
In October, the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) granted regulatory approval for the first eye drops that treat presbyopia, a product called Vuity, developed by the company name Allergan.
Now, these drops are available on prescription and could mean millions of people can give up their reading glasses at least some of the time.
In presbyopia, the lens of the eye becomes harder & less elastic with age, and the eye muscles lose power over-time. Therefore, it becomes more difficult to focus on close things, especially when they are small.
“Many Americans face presbyopia, which usually begins in their 40s, by relying on reading glasses or resorting to alternatives such as zooming in on their digital devices to see up close,” says optometrist Selina McGee, from American Academy of Optometry.
So how can eye drops help? Vuity is formulated with 1.25% pilocarpine, a drug that belongs to the class of miotics, drugs that shrink the pupil of the eye. These drugs are used to reduce pressure in the eye & in some diagnostic procedures.
Since pilocarpine narrows the pupil, the eye is better able to focus, improving near range vision, while distance vision is un-affected. Once treatment is approved by an eye doctor, the drops are simple & safe to apply – they can have effect in as little as 15 minutes & can continue to work for up to 6 hours.
Pilocarpine is not without risk. The drug has been around for some time & is on the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines List, so we have a good idea of its safety profile; negative side effects include the very rare risk of retinal detachment & should also not be used if the person has inflammation of iris.
Also, because eye drops shrink 1 pupils, they naturally affect low-light vision of person. There are therefore also warnings regarding driving at night or doing any-thing else dangerous in low light.
Two phase 3 clinical trials – which have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal – involving a total of 750 participants were used to test Vuity compared to placebo drop, with the treatment showing statistically significant improvement in vision among volunteers.
No serious side effects were reported, although 14.9% of people reported mild headaches and up to 5% of participants reported other side effects, such as “red eyes, blurred vision. , eye pain, visual impairment, eye irritation & increased tear production, “according to the New York Times.
“There are many types of this drug in studies, but this is the first to be approved,” ophthalmologist Ella Faktorovich from Pacific Vision Institute told ABC7 News. “It’s quite remarkable.
A month’s supply of Vuity costs around US $ 80 & has been shown to work best in people aged 40-55 with mild or moderate presbyopia; Eye drops probably aren’t very useful for older people, and a prescription doesn’t mean you can throw your reading glasses in the trash, but it’s an extremely welcome development.
Moreover, this is only the very first step. While Vuity got its first FDA approval, there are already a slew of other eye drops for presbyopia in works already.
Some of them, like microline by eyenovia & CSF-1 by orasis, also use pilocarpine, but others look for completely different active ingredients altogether or combine them with something else, to try smaller doses, less side effects and better overall safety profiles.
It seems like it’s just matter of time until other drugs follow Vuity on-to the market, so look at this space, maybe with glasses perched on your nose.