Topical Drug Shows Promise for Diabetic Macular Edema

Early-stage human clinical trials have shown that a new drug to treat diabetic macular edema (DME) is promising and safe. One of the most severe forms of diabetic eye disease, DME is a leading cause of blindness in adults. Researchers at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, led by Peter Campochiaro, completed a multi-center human clinical trial evaluating “mecamylamine,” a topical drug developed by the South San Francisco biotech company CoMentis, Inc. About 40% of the participants showed significant improvement in overall vision and/or thickness of the retina after using mecamylamine eye drops. Among the study’s important implications: first, that a topical treatment can work on the retinal vessels at the back of the eye and produce a clinical benefit; and second, that multiple DME treatment options must be explored to address how individuals react differently to various treatments (about 40% showed no change and about 20% had worsening of the condition). Funding for the study was provided through JDRF’s Industry Discovery and Development Partnerships program. Results were published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology. (March 2010)