Finding an old drug's new tricks for pterygium

Donations needed for clinical trial on cardiovascular drug showing promise in treating pinguecula and pterygium

24 Mar 2016 by Olivia Wannan

Blood vessel dilator dipyridamole’s success in treating the common eye disease pterygium has been confirmed in new research.

The positive results, presented last week at the Israeli Society for Vision and Eye Research Conference, in the 25 patients in the user-reported outcome survey have boosted hopes that a clinical trial could begin later this year, if donors provide the much-needed cash.

The MedInsight Research Institute at Ariel University, Israel, first showed two years ago that dipyridamole eye drops had the potential to treat pterygium and early-stage pinguecula, which the team estimates affects 10–50% of the world’s population respectively.

The British-born discoverer and Ariel University biotechnologist, Moshe Rogosnitzsky, told OT that originally the drops were aimed at treating dry eye, commonly seen with pterygium.

He explained: “They were prescribed for a patient with dry eye due to a pterygium but without expectation of helping the pterygium, which surprisingly it did … The use for pterygium was therefore serendipitous.”

Mr Rogosnitzsky noted that the medication could delay the need for surgery – either an initial or follow-up operation – or used as an alternative to steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs. He added: “From what we have observed, we believe it could be used for early stage too – to prevent progression.”

The researchers believe that such an eye drop is a better option to treat the inflammation and eventual vision obstruction seen in pterygium, also known as surfer’s eye.

The currently used steroids could result in glaucoma, while surgery had high recurrence rates, Mr Rogosnitzsky said.

Some users reported stinging as a side effect of the drops, but the team were confident that optimising the preparation of the medication could solve this.

“Now we have a promising potential treatment for this very difficult-to-treat disorder, and it appears to be not only effective, but entails only a small amount of a very safe medicine.”

Dipyridamole has been used for 55 years for treating angina and preventing stroke.

Mr Rogosnitzsky said the plan was to begin a clinical trial later this year. However, without commercial sponsorship, the next phase was reliant on donors providing the money in time.

The team is seeking the $62,000 USD (£44,000) needed for the initial clinical trial on crowd-funding website WeFundTheCure.org. So far, approximately $15,000 USD (£11,000) has been pledged.

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