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New Medicine For Macular Degeneration

Date:  September 17th, 2013

Contact/Phone:  Mary Muhlbradt
Phone: (701)857-5116
Fax: (701)857-5683

e-mail:   Mary Muhlbradt

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A needle in the eye will never make anyone's “My Favorite Things” list. But that's what patients with macular degeneration rely on regularly to prevent loss of precious vision due to macular degeneration.

Each week, Trinity Health vitreoretinal specialist David Jacobs, MD, treats dozens of patients with eye injections at Trinity Regional Eyecare — Minot Center. So it came as good news when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Eylea as a treatment for patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Americans ages 60 and older.

“Eylea is an important development in the treatment of wet macular degeneration,” Dr. Jacobs said. “The biggest advantage is that it doesn't have to be administered as frequently. After an intial period we can administer it every eight weeks, compared to every four weeks for Lucentis and Avastin.
The disadvantage is that is more expensive, so insurance coverage is a factor.”

Eylea belongs to a class of drugs called angiogenesis inhibitors. They block the growth of
abnormal blood vessels that are the culprit in the wet form of macular degeneration. These blood vessels can leak fluid into the central part of the retina, known as the macula. When fluid leaks into the macula, it thickens and vision loss occurs. AMD gradually destroys a person's sharp, central vision and makes it harder to see fine detail needed to do daily tasks such as reading and driving. Eylea and other angiogenesis inhibitors are engineered to block the growth of the proteins that promote abnormal blood vessel growth.

“There's no cure for macular degeneration, but we can slow down its progression to prevent vision loss in 96 percent of patients,” Dr. Jacobs said. “Forty percent of patients actually gain vision. The last thing people want is a needle in the eye, but we do use numbing medicine and a small 30-gauge needle to make the treatment as comfortable as possible.”

Administration of Eylea and other inhibitors takes only a few seconds, but the preparation and post-injection monitoring take about an hour. A patient first undergoes a fluorescein angiogram that's used to monitor wet macular degeneration. A topical numbing agent is administered, and Dr. Jacobs injects additional numbing medicine into the eye. When the eye is sufficiently numbed, he injects the Eylea or other inhibitor into the clear, jellylike substance (vitreous) that fills the eye from the lens back to the retina.

About 200,000 people are diagnosed with AMD each year, according to Dr. Jacobs, and it's estimated that around 15 million people overall have AMD in the U.S.

“It's important for people over age 50 to have a yearly eye exam,” Dr. Jacobs emphasized. “It's good to establish a baseline around age 50 so we have reference point to monitor changes.”

He noted that while there is no cure, people can reduce their risk of developing macular degeneration by
maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and eating fruits and vegetables. Some vitamin supplements
have also been shown to be helpful, including Vitamin C, E, copper, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin. SPACE index.php