Drug Study Hold Promise for Slowing Macular Degeneration

Researchers and patients have a newfound cause for optimism about an experimental treatment for macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in older adults.

A recent 18-month study of the drug lampalizumab, involving 129 patients, has shown positive results in slowing the progression of “dry” macular degeneration.  The success, free of known safety concerns, has opened up two more large scale studies that should conclude late in 2017.  The research, conducted by drug manufacturer Genentech, was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

According to a recent CTV News report, the drug works in patients with a gene flaw that affects the immune system, increasing the risk for macular degeneration which occurs when light-sensing cells in the retina are permanently destroyed.   Study participants who carried the gene were the only patients that appeared to benefit from the drug therapy.   These participants demonstrated 44 per cent less damage to the eye than those on a placebo.

Lampalizumab is believed to work by halting or slowing the immune system reaction that causes macular degeneration. Until now, there has been no treatment for “dry” age-related macular degeneration although there are several therapies to help “wet” macular degeneration caused by leaky blood vessels which grow under the retina.  Often by the time symptoms occur, permanent damage is done and older adults may lose their ability to read, drive or enjoy many other activities requiring good eyesight.

Symptoms and Risk Factors of AMD

  • Most common over the age of 60
  • Eyesight may become blurred in the center of the field of vision
  • A family history of AMD may increase your risk for the condition
  • Smoking increases risk by up to four times
  • Excess alcohol consumption, obesity and exposure to UV light may increase risk.
  • High blood pressure and heart disease may also increase risk for developing AMD

Source:  National Health Service UK

For more information about managing and preventing macular degeneration visit the Mayo Clinic by following this link.