A new study has shown that ranibizumab injections are as safe as laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy, highlighting it as a valid alternative for patients with diabetic eye disease.
Panretinal photocoagulation (PGP) therapy is currently a key treatment in stabilising the retina in those with severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, using a laser to burn and seal leaky blood vessels. However, the therapy can result in unwanted side effects, including some loss of night vision and blind spots.
In a 2012 study of 305 adults in the US with proliferative diabetic retinopathy, and a mean age of 55, patients received either PGP laser therapy or ranibizumab.
Ranibizumab, which is marketed as Lucentis by Swiss pharma company Novartis, is currently licensed for patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic macular oedema (DMO). The anti-VEGF treatment inhibits growth factors which can stop abnormal blood vessels from growing, reduces leakage of fluid from vessels into the macula and reduce inflammation.
Patients received up to three PGP treatments, or intravitreal injections of 0.5mg ranibizumab every four weeks. Eyes were randomised to receive treatment, with 89 participants treated in both eyes.
Two years after first treatment, patients were assessed to see the mean change in visual acuity. The results show an increase in mean visual acuity letter score of +2.8 from baseline in the ranibizumab group, with comparatively little change in the PGP group (+0.2).
The findings also report an increase in visual field sensitivity loss, vitrectomy, and development of DMO in the PGP group compared with the ranbizumab group.
The authors of the study write: “Although longer-term follow-up is needed, ranibizumab may be a reasonable treatment alternative, at least through two years, for patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy.”
The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Image credit: Community Eye Health