An implant injected directly into the back of the eye near the retina could tackle a sight loss condition affecting more than 200,000 people in the UK.
Ozurdex, a biodegradable implant which releases anti-inflammatory medicine near the retina, has won approval to be used in the UK to treat retinal vein occlusion.
RVO, which can lead to sudden loss of vision, is caused by blockage of the retinal veins that prevent blood building up around the retinal cells at the back of the eye.
The blockage leads to a build-up of blood which causes swelling, which in turn damages the cells in the retina, causing problems including sudden sight loss, blurred vision, straight lines appearing wavy, or the appearance of a black spot in central vision.
In a clinical trial involving over 1,000 patients, one Ozurdex implant was shown to significantly improve vision by up to three lines (or 15 letters) on an eye chart, and improved or stabilised vision in more than 80% of the patients tested.
Ozurdex involves a six-month, two-stage process of releasing doses of the anti-inflammatory medicine dexamethasone - in the first two months high doses are used to reduce the swelling, with a slower rate of release over the following four months to stop the swelling getting worse.
The implant biodegrades into water and carbon dioxide during the six-month period, meaning surgical removal is not required to extract the implant.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People said the implant was an “exciting new development” although it has yet to be appraised by the NICE for widespread use on the NHS.