Could benefit more than 60,000 in Britain who suffer dry eye
Drops made from fungi discovered in Norwegian soil could be the latest weapon in the battle with weepy, sore eyes.
The eye drops, newly approved for prescription, contain ciclosporin, a compound that controls inflammation by suppressing the immune system.
And like antibiotic penicillin and cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, the active ingredient is derived from a type of fungus.
The eye drops, 'Ikervis', which have been approved for prescription, contain ciclosporin, a compound that controls inflammation - which could benefit thousands of people in Britain suffering from dry eye syndrome
In this case it is Tolypocladium inflatum, first isolated in the late 1960s from soil samples from the Hardangervidda mountain plateau in Norway.
The eye drops, with the brand name Ikervis, could benefit more than 60,000 people in Britain who suffer dry eye syndrome, where the eye cannot make enough natural lubricating oil.
Without this oil, tears evaporate quickly, leading to discomfort, pain, swelling and excessive watering. In severe cases, the syndrome can lead to keratitis where the eye becomes so inflamed that the front part (the cornea) is damaged and people are robbed of their vision.
Cold weather can exacerbate symptoms, while some patients find relief from warm compresses that stimulate natural oil secretions in the eye.
A six-month trial of 246 patients showed significant improvements in symptoms in those who were given once-daily Ikervis drops.
Those treated with the drug had 46 per cent fewer defects in their cornea than those not on the drug.
Signs of inflammation to the eye's surface were also reduced.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved Ikervis for severe dry eye disease
Opthalmologist Professor Francisco Figueiredo, from Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary and Newcastle University, said Ikervis could make a 'real difference' to patients.
He said: "It means patients with severe keratitis and dry eye disease will have access for the first time to a licensed product with the potential to have a significant positive impact.
Patients with this particularly unpleasant and disabling condition have a seriously impaired quality of life"
Current approaches for treating dry eye syndrome include artificial tears - eye drops that lubricate. However, they offer only transient relief or are so thick that they affect vision
Although Ikevis has been approved by NICE it not likely to be freely available due to the very high cost of the drug.
One months supply inc. script, dispensing and P&P. (GBP)149.00
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