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Experimental Contact Lens Releases Glaucoma Medicine

BOSTON (UPI) — An experimental specially designed contact lens releases a glaucoma medicine at a steady rate for up to a month and corrects vision, U.S. researchers say.

Joseph Ciolino, an ophthalmologist, who, along with his mentor Daniel Kohane, developed the new contact lens at Harvard Medical School, said people using traditional eye drops for glaucoma “aren’t getting any symptomatic relief, and they’re not seeing better, so there’s not a lot of motivation to be compliant with the medication.”

Glaucoma is a group of conditions that can result in irreversible blindness. This vision loss can be reduced if glaucoma is found and treated early, most commonly with eye drops to lower pressure within the eye.

But using eye drops regularly can be a challenge and while the drops can minimize further vision loss, they don’t repair vision that’s already lost, Ciolino said.

Like a miniature doughnut stuffed inside a tiny pita pocket, a common glaucoma medicine is sandwiched inside this specially designed contact lens, Ciolino said.

In laboratory experiments, the lens, which can also correct vision, releases the eyesight-saving medication at a steady rate for up to a month. Its construction offers numerous potential clinical advantages over the standard glaucoma treatment and might have additional applications, such as delivering anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics to the eye.

The new lens is different from other prototypes because it’s the many-layered construction that places a ring of drug-releasing film in standard, government-approved contact lens materials. Other designs have most often used a pre-made lens dipped in a drug solution, which then leached out into the eye rapidly and inconsistently, Kohane explained.

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