A new report reveals a potential breakthrough in the treatment of a common eye condition known as pterygium that impacts the vision, eye health, and cosmetic appearance of people around the world.
The newly published report shows that eye drops containing the anti-thrombosis drug dipyridamole (Persantin®, Cardoxin®) led to almost total disappearance of an inflamed pterygium in a 35 year old otherwise healthy woman. Dipyridamole is a drug in use over the past 55 years to treat other disorders, but now found to have this remarkable new use.
A pterygium is a benign, triangular-shaped growth of the conjunctiva that grows onto the cornea. The conjunctiva is the thin clear layer of tissue that lies over the white of the eyeball. A pterygium is made up of collagen and fibrovascular tissue that grows from the conjunctiva and eventually advances onto the cornea (the clear outer covering of the eyeball). Pterygia are more commonly located on the inner or medial portion of the eye. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light, wind, dust or sand appear to be the primary causes of this condition. In some countries it affects up to 25% of the population. As the growth spreads, patients can develop vision problems due to irregular astigmstism, as well as significant discomfort from complications such as dry eye, inflammation, irritation, and foreign body sensation. Additionally, because of their location, pterygia are a cause of substantial cosmetic concern for sufferers.
With mild to moderate pterygia, artificial tear supplements and/or mild anti-inflammatory drops can be used to minimize symptoms. However if a pterygium becomes very large, irritated or encroaches on the visual axis, eye surgery is required to remove the excess tissue. Unfortunately, even after surgery a pterygium will often grow back.
The new report’s lead author, Moshe Rogosnitzky, who is Co-Founder and Director of Research at the MedInsight Research Institute, discovered that administration of dipyridamole eye drops significantly reduced a pterygium and completely resolved the associated inflammation and other symptoms. Clinical trials are now being planned for pterygia, pingueculae, and other common eye disorders and their complications such as dry eye and inflammation.
One particular advantage to this discovery is that dipyridamole is a widely-approved anti-thrombosis medication that has been in use for over 55 years. Its safety profile is well-established; as such, fast-track development of dipyridamole eye drops as a repurposed drug is feasible. Moshe Rogosnitzky commented on this finding, “Pterygium and dry eye are debilitating disorders for which new safe solutions are urgently needed, and I believe dipyridamole has the potential to provide relief to sufferers of these intractable conditions.
Rogosnitzky, who specializes in finding new uses for old drugs, continued, “This is yet another example of the advantages of drug repurposing. Whereas bringing a new drug to market can take up to 17 years or more, finding a new use for an old drug with an excellent safety profile can lead to approval and availability in as little as two years.”