FDA approves drug to help eyesight for diabetic patients

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Aug. 31, 2012 at 3:31 a.m.
Updated Sept. 3, 2012 at 4:03 a.m.

An on-the-market injection for eyesight problems has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for another use - diabetes.

Lucentis was approved for macular degeneration several years ago, but was recently found to help patients losing eyesight because of diabetes, said. Dr. George Boozalis, an ophthalmologist at Victoria Eye Center. The injections are now being offered only at the Victoria Eye Center.

Tiana Smith received her first injection from Boozalis about a year ago for other eye issues. She said she is now seeing more clearly.

Though she does not have diabetes, she stands by the injection, saying it has helped her and is painless.

Smith, of Port Lavaca, said the injections over time have cleared up her vision.

"I know people who have diabetes and have gone blind," Smith said. "This wasn't available for them. But now it is."

Diabetic Macular Edema is basically a leaking of capillaries in the eyes. This injection stops that leaking and can even reverse it to an extent, Boozalis said.

The treatment prior to Lucentis was Argon laser treatment, but it could never make it better, Boozalis said.

It also did not help that with lasers, you may be able to fix the problem, but you're also causing some damage to eye tissue, so it's give and take.

"I don't want people to think it's a miracle cure," Boozalis said about Lucentis.

Clinical trials have shown at least three lines of vision improvement in some patients, meaning they can see three lines better on the standard eye chart.

Boozalis' diabetic patients have just started on the injections. The injection is covered by Medicaid.

Only one injection is administered per month.

Each month after that is a check up, and if there is still leaking, then another injection is given, he said.

Because this new injection causes no damage, like the laser, future injections are always available.

"It's a big deal," he said. "We didn't have anything we could do for these diabetics."



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