Currently there are approximately 29 million people worldwide suffering from dry macular degeneration, over the next 2 decades that number is expected to double. The treatments for dry macular degeneration however have been non-existent. As an eye care provider our only hope was to make sure our patients are taking vitamins specifically targeting macular needs. Once a patient developed atrophy due to macular degeneration, we had no mechanism to slow it down besides hope the vitamins could potentially lessen the degree of vision loss. Wet macular degeneration has treatments to lessen the severity of vision loss, but the target of wet macular degeneration treatment is to convert it back into the dry form. Once converted back into the dry form of macular degeneration, we are again faced with the problem of no treatment available to limit vision loss.
There is finally hope on the horizon for macular atrophy due to dry macular degeneration. A pharmaceutical group named Acucela is currently in clinical trials with a drug coined ACU-4429 which is designed to be taken daily to limit the atrophy associated with dry macular degeneration. The drug works by blocking an isomerase that converts Vitamin A, an integral part of macular function, into a functional form. The theory is that people with macular degeneration suffer from accelerated Vitamin A processing, leaving an excess of byproducts near the macula, which become toxic and then cause retinal cells to degenerate. By slowing down the Vitamin A processing, the byproducts are lessened and atrophy is prevented. At this point the FDA has ‘Fast-tracked’ the medication and could potentially be available as soon as 2013.
Jon Stoppel O.D.
This article was written by Dr. Stoppel