The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the drug Lucentis (ranibizumab) for treatment of diabetic retinopathy in patients with diabetic macular edema.
Diabetic retinopathy is a disease in which blood vessels that nourish the retina deteriorate and leak fluid, failing to provide the necessary nutrients for a healthy retina. Diabetes is the cause of diabetic retinopathy and approximately 25 percent of diabetics have some form of the disease.
For some patients who have diabetic retinopathy with diabetic macular edema, abnormal blood vessels begin to grow on the surface of the retina. If these vessels burst, then severe vision loss or blindness can occur.
Lucentis is the first significant therapy for individuals with diabetic retinopathy with diabetic macular edema. A trained physician injects Lucentis into the eye once a month and it should be used in conjunction with other treatments to control blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. The drug hinders leakage of blood vessels and also prevents the growth of new abnormal blood vessels on the retina’s surface.
Dr. Pravin Dugel, a retinal specialist at Retinal Consultants of Arizona and an investigator in the medication’s two clinical trials, said, “When given promptly, Lucentis can alter the progression of diabetic retinopathy and save vision. It truly is disease-modifying. In certain patients, if you treat up front, you can actually modify the disease in the eye.”