Blind World

Diabetic Macular Edema:
One step closer to providing a new treatment for diabetes-related eye diseases.

June 7, 2002.

The Boston Herald.

A Watertown drug technology company, teamed with eye care giant Bausch & Lomb Inc., is one step closer to providing a new treatment for diabetes-related eye diseases - conditions that can lead to blindness.

Bausch's Envision TD was designed with the help of Control Delivery Systems Inc., of Watertown. A new round of testing results shows that the small implant is an improvement over current treatments of diabetic macular edema, a complication of diabetes caused by a swelling of the blood vessels behind the eye. While laser techniques and surgery can stop vision loss, the Envision TD device is the first treatment that has been found to improve vision.

The implant - about the size of a grain of rice - is inserted behind the retina. It releases a steroid continually for up to three years, reducing swelling in the blood vessels of the eye.

By reducing the fluid buildup, vision can be increased and blindness can be prevented, said Bryan Levy, of Bausch & Lomb. But, he said, "if the receptors become damaged over a long period of time, even if you resolve retina swell, at that point the vision won't come back."

For that reason, the Food and Drug Administration has given the drug fast-track status in an effort to quicken its approval. The company hopes to have approval for the Envision TD by 2003 so it can be on the market by 2004, said Bausch & Lomb spokeswoman Margaret Graham.

"Macular edema is one of the hardest things we have to treat," said Dr. Lloyd Paul Aiello, at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. "It would be a significant improvement on our care of these patients."

Up to this point, the treatments available for the condition have only stopped the vision loss, not actually improved sight, said Dr. Joan Miller, a Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary surgeon.

Retinopathies such as diabetic macular edema cause 12,000 to 24,000 cases of blindness each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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