New directions in drug delivery offer promise for ocular therapies


The future is here when it comes to innovations in ocular drug delivery, according to an expert panel, including such technologies as nanotechnology, contact lenses, and MIGS devices.

Seattle-The future is here when it comes to innovations in ocular drug delivery, according to an expert panel here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Optometry.

Kenneth Eakland, OD, an optometrist from Forest Grove, OR, discussed one of the “hottest” developments in drug delivery-nanotechnology.

While not yet ready for prime time, “we are already seeing this now, with faster computers, new medicines, and consumer goods, but it is going to change how we manage and diagnose ocular diseases,” Dr. Eakland pointed out.

Most of the money and research for nanotechnology is directed towards cancer, but the overall goals involve usage for more specific drug targeting, better drug delivery, and reducing toxicity. At the same time, nanotechnology maintains therapeutic effects, greater safety, and biocompatibility.

“Nanotechnology can also manage the distribution of drugs,” said Dr. Eakland. As an example, they can enable crossing of the blood brain barrier.

Nanotechnology is transforming the methods of how therapies are delivered and holds promise for increasing specificity. “We are right on the cutting edge of a new revolution of the drug delivery system,” he noted.

Lyndon Jones, OD, PhD, also spoke about new innovations that haven’t quite made it into the clinical arena yet--drug delivery via contact lenses.

Dr. Jones, director of the Centre for Contact Lens Research at the University of Waterloo, Canada, explained that using contact lenses as a drug delivery was first suggested in 1971. “Clearly, there have been issues in developing a commercial product, as the interest in the concept is there and has been for decades,” Dr. Jones added.

The primary use of contact lenses would be for disease management, and then potentially, the lenses could be used to monitor and detect ocular disease.

One of the problems is a lack of proper materials suitable to create a drug delivery system with contact lenses. “But there are new materials that have potential to improve drug delivery, and contact lens delivery is a dream worth chasing,” said Dr. Jones.

Switching gears, James Thimons, OD, of Ophthalmic Consultants of Connecticut, Stamford, discussed how new minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) devices could bypass the use of drugs, or at least, reduce the number of medications that a patient takes. “This allows for long-term reduction of intraocular pressure with minimal toxicity,” he said, adding that it also addresses the issue of patient compliance and adherence to drug regimens.

Use of the iStent, a MIGS device, is one procedure that Dr. Thimons is using in his practice. Studies have shown that the device is effective and patients were able to reduce the number of medications. 

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