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Emirates Society of Ophthalmology holds 16th Annual Congress

New Dual-Impact Drug to Help Save Vision of Patients with Diabetic Macular Edema (DME)

The Emirates Society of Ophthalmology (ESO) held its 16th annual congress at the Dubai World Trade Center from 10 – 12 December.

“A pan-regional platform for the ophthalmology society in the Gulf, ESO participants focused this year on the treatment of diabetic retinopathy in patients with Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) which affects 21 million people worldwide,” said Dr Fatima Al Amiri, Head of the Ophthalmology Department at Al Qassimi and Kuwait Hospital, and Sharjah and National Coordinator of Eye Health (Prevention of Blindness Programme) at the UAE Ministry of Health.

“This year one of our key focus areas is the breakthrough treatment for DME, the leading cause of vision loss in working-age adults. Phase 3 VIVID-DME and VISTA-DME studies reveal that the new dual-impact drug offers diabetes patients suffering from impaired vision an advanced treatment option allowing them to proactively manage disease progression and achieve sustained vision improvement based on adherence to the treatment regimen,” said Dr Al Amiri.

“Vision loss due to DME affects nearly 3% of diabetes patients worldwide,” she clarified.

“The International Diabetes Federation announced in 2014 that five countries in the Gulf region have recorded the highest diabetes incidence rates (in adults between the ages of 20 and 79): with the following breakdown: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: 23.9%, Kuwait 23.1%, Bahrain 21.9%, Qatar 19.8% and the United Arab Emirates 19%.” She explained that blood sugar level fluctuations damage the retinal vessels, which may leak fluid and lipids onto the central macular area, resulting in DME.

According to Dr Alamiri, “Results from the Phase 3 VISTA-DME and VIVID-DME studies have revealed that after one year of treatment, patients treated regularly with the new drug were able to read approximately 10 additional letters (two additional lines) on an eye chart. In addition to that 33% patients only required eight injections to regain the ability to read three lines, while over 50% of patients had regained the ability to see two lines.”

The new treatment which is injected into the eye once a month, for an initial five months, then once every two months, minimizes the development of abnormal retinal vessels by blocking the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), one of the natural growth factors in the body which play a significant role in diabetic retinopathy incidence. By reducing the rate of development of new blood vessels, leakage is minimized or prevented. The drug also inhibits a disease-related protein known as the Placental Growth Hormone (PLGF), which is one of the most important factors leading to retinal and vascular defects during the early stages of diabetic retinopathy.

“The new, dual-impact drug represents an effective and comprehensive treatment option for DME; while current treatments only inhibit the VEGF-A protein, the new dual-impact drug inhibits all VEGF-A proteins, in addition to PLGF when treatment guidelines are strictly adhered to,” Dr Alamiri noted.

“People living with diabetes must closely monitor their blood sugar levels and go for eye checkups once every year,” she emphasized. “Patients who discover the disease early can control it, prevent loss of vision and achieve the best treatment outcomes.”