New glaucoma drug approved by FDA. It’s been called the “silent thief of sight” because it causes gradual vision loss over a long time. By the time you notice the symptoms, the disease is quite advanced and even with treatment, ten percent of sufferers still end up blind.
It’s glaucoma, and it’s the second leading cause of blindness globally, after cataracts, affecting one in 200 people aged 50 and younger—with that number rising to one in 10 for people over the age of eighty.
Over 60.5 million people worldwide and 120,000 Americans have glaucoma and by 2020, ophthalmologists estimated that their numbers will rise to 79.6 million. The numbers in China and India are bigger, and the disease is a leading cause of blindness among African Americans.
But glaucoma presents a great public health challenge because the blindness it causes is irreversible. Worse, only half of the people who have glaucoma know that they have it.
Treatment is aimed at further preventing further vision loss. But if the condition is detected early enough, it’s possible to arrest the development or slow the progression with medical and surgical means.
Ocular hypertension (increased pressure within the eye) is the most important risk factor in most glaucomas, and the key to treatment is keeping the eye pressure within normal bounds.
On Feb. 14, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new solution to treat this common but deadly eye condition.
The drug, manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co is called Zioptan, whose active ingredient is tafluprost. It’s previously been approved for use in certain European countries under the brand Saflutan.
Zioptan treats ocular hypertension. Patients with ocular hypertension frequently are considered to have a greater chance of developing glaucoma.
The drug is also approved to treat elevated intraocular pressure in people with a form of glaucoma known as open-angle. This form of glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, involves mounting pressure on the optic nerve.