Aren’t contact lenses great? They sit right on the eye and give the wearer more natural vision than glasses. They also don’t fog up in rainy damp weather and don’t get in the way when a person plays sports. Recently, scientists developed a way for contacts to deliver medicine to the eye.
This is very important since as great as eye drops are, they have their problems such as the patient not mixing the solution properly or not putting the drops in at the correct time. Also, eye drops can go through the nasal passage and lead to side effects ranging from diarrhea to bronchial spasms in people who have asthma. Having contact lenses deliver medicine to the eye increases the amount of drug into the bloodstream that is effective. In other words, a person isn’t getting a weakened version of the drug when it is delivered by way of contact lenses.
One company that has this is the Diopter Corporation. This company worked with researchers at the University of Florida to develop a contact lenses that delivers drugs to the surface of the eye. Phase I clinical studies were completed at the University of Florida Health Eye Center in Gainesville in 2018 and the lenses were well tolerated with no adverse events reported.
Another thing that makes this particular contact lenses drug delivery system effective, is that it is engineered with Vitamin E nanoparticles. The nanoparticles act as a barrier and prevent the medicine from diffusing out of the lens too quickly. The company envisions that this drug delivery system can be used to treat dry eye, ocular ulcers, lower intra-ocular pressure in persons with glaucoma and even treat cystinosis, which is a rare disorder whereby crystals form in the cornea.
That’s not the only place that is developing a contact lens drug delivery system. The University of New South Wales in Australia and Uka Tarsadia University in India are collaborating in research in this area. Scientists and students at both universities will be involved in this project. Professors will do the research, supervise postgraduate students and give lectures about the research. Students will work with scientists that are doing both basic and clinical research in drug delivery and the ocular surface.
The contacts would either contain the drug and would be prescribed by an eye doctor or it would be soaked in solution that had the drug and be dispensed by a pharmacist. In the case of the soaked contacts, these would be good for patients in areas where eye doctors are in short supply. So, the pharmacist would be the one who would put the lenses in the patient’s eyes.
As great as the idea of using contact lenses is that’s not to say that there aren’t problems to overcome and they include some people who don’t want to wear contacts. There are the usual complications that come with regular contact lens uses, such as irritation or infection. Still, these problems aren’t insurmountable, they are part of the research process. Don’t be surprised to see contacts that deliver medicine in the next few years.