Drug-Dispensing Contact Lens Technology Is Being Developed In Boston

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary is planning to make the future for glaucoma patients a clearer one by developing a new type of contact lens that can dispense drugs.

Glaucoma is an eye illness in which nerve damage due to increasing pressure in the eye can lead to vision loss. It is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but ocular medications aim to lower pressure in the eye.

In a study supported by a grant from Boston Children’s Hospital Technology and Innovation Development Office and published in the journal Ophthalmology, a team of researchers showed how patients with glaucoma can use this drug-dispensing contact lens, which was even found to be more effective than the current treatment method of eye drops. Less than 50% of glaucoma patients prefer the eye drop treatment because it is painful, imprecise and difficult to self-administer.

The novel contact lens system uses a strategically placed drug polymer film to deliver medication gradually to the eye.

The lens can potentially help patients better stick to their medication regime. The glaucoma treatment market, which according to Global Data estimate was at $2.4 billion in 2013, may also have massive implications because of the new technology. The innovative technology can even be applied on treatment method for other diseases.

Senior author of the study Dr. Daniel Kohane, director of the Laboratory for Biomaterials and Drug Delivery at Boston Children’s Hospital, said:

"A key point is that our technology can be used to deliver a broad range of drugs, and therefore could be used to treat many diseases. We have shown that it can deliver antibiotics, antifungals, and anti-inflammatories. Intriguingly we have also shown that the lens can be used with some small molecule drugs to reach the retina. So the market is potentially very large."

How do the drug-dispensing lenses work?

The lenses are normal contacts. To turn these lenses into drug-delivery system, polymer films containing the glaucoma drug are attached to the lenses using ultraviolet light polymerization.

The wearer can see clearly since the centers of the lenses are just normal lenses and the polymer film does not obstruct vision.

An initial burst of the drug is released right after the lens is inserted into the eye. After that the lens releases the drug on a regular and consistent basis. The lenses can be used to administer the medicines for a month.