Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. recently announced that their Eylea (aflibercept) intravitreal injection received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy. The injection targets diabetes-related retinopathy at all stages and severities, effectively “[reducing] the risk of blindness,” according to the press release. The injection inhibits the growth of new retinal blood vessels and keeps fluid from moving through eye vessels, both of which can cause serious vision complications.
FDA approval was granted after one-year results were released from the Phase 3 PANORAMA trial earlier this year. For this trial, which involved over 400 participants, researchers examined the effectiveness of the treatment against a placebo in improving moderately severe to severe nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR). In the press release, Regeneron’s President and Chief Scientific Officer, George D. Yancopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., said Eylea reduced the risk of NPDR advancing to proliferative diabetic eye disease by 85% to 88%. In addition, approximately 80% of individuals who received treatment every eight weeks saw improvement in their diabetic retinopathy during the trial.
Because of its ability to block blood vessel growth in the eye, Eylea is classified as a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor. The PANORAMA study was the first to use an anti-VEGF for the prevention of advanced diabetic retinopathy.
According to Regeneron, around eight million individuals are affected by diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that may be dangerous to ignore. The National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that chronically high blood glucose levels trigger damage to blood vessels in the retina and can lead to four stages of retinopathy: mild nonproliferative, moderate nonproliferative, severe nonproliferative, and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (or PDR), which is the most advanced stage. NPDR causes the blood vessels in the retina to leak and subsequently swell, triggering macular edema and distorted or blurred vision. If the disease progresses into PDR, this may lead to vision impairment, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
While this treatment is to help improve diabetic retinopathy, techniques for prevention, such as receiving a comprehensive eye examination and managing blood sugar levels, are highly encouraged. For more information on prevention or treatment, click here.