The heart of the matter

A heart drug shows early potential as an alternate treatment for diabetic macular oedema

17 Jun 2016 by Olivia Wannan

Glaucoma shown in back of the eye imageA cardiovascular disease medication could offer hope to the 50% of patients with diabetic macular oedema (DMO) who have little success with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) injections, a new study suggests.

Research by University College London (UCL) and Queen’s University Belfast tested the drug darapladib in animal trials for its effects on the eye disease. Darapladib was developed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, but despite strong data for its safety, its efficacy in treating cardiovascular disease did not meet the standards required.

UCL researcher, Dr Patric Turowski, told OT that one of the most exciting findings of the pre-clinical study is that darapladib treats DMO in a different way from the standard anti-VEGF drugs.

He explained that: “50% of patients with DMO don’t respond to anti-VEGF, and may have a VEGF-independent form of the disease …We think that target group might particularly benefit from darapladib.

“The good thing about this drug is that tens of thousands of patients have used it and it’s absolutely safe,” he highlighted.

The pre-clinical results also suggest that the therapeutic effects of the two drugs combine, meaning darapladib could complement anti-VEGF medication and reduce the frequency of injections a patient required, Dr Turowski envisioned.

However, he emphasised that the research was still very early. The team is currently designing a clinical study looking at the independent and combined effects of darapladib on patients with DMO.

Dr Turowski said that, if such a trial found that more than 50% of patients showed an improvement, this would suggest that darapladib could treat the VEGF-independent disease. “We would see a lot more resolution in optical coherence tomography, perhaps 60, 70 or 80%,” he added.

Other findings, including those from a trial of 32 patients in Italy, suggested that darapladib may take a longer time than anti-VEGF drugs to reach its full efficacy, Dr Turowski explained.

The hope was to conduct a six-month, rather than a three-month, trial using patients with DMO that did not affect their central vision, he outlined.

Image credit: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health

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