New glaucoma drug from a Duke University spinoff has an edge over other treatments

January 3, 2018 by John Murawski, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.c.)

A 12-year-old Duke University spinoff founded by two Duke professors has received regulatory approval for its first drug: once-a-day eye drops for glaucoma patients.

Aerie Pharmaceuticals received approval for the , Rhopressa, from the Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 18. Rhopressa is designed for , the most common form of the , affecting about 3 million Americans. The eye drops, expected to be available to glaucoma patients by mid-2018, would be used in conjunction with another .

The company called the FDA approval "a testament to years of successful research and development and the incredible talents of our dedicated employees."

Glaucoma is a degenerative eye disorder without symptoms in the early stages, primarily affecting the elderly, with a higher incidence among African Americans. Glaucoma is caused by a buildup of fluid in the eye that results in increasing pressure on the optical nerve.

The progress of glaucoma can be slowed down by medication or surgery if detected early, but the condition can lead to vision loss if not caught in time.

Glaucoma is typically treated with eye drops that require up to four applications daily and have unpleasant side effects, such as redness, blurred vision, dry eyes and irritation. Rhopressa is used only once a day; its side effects may include pain, stinging and redness.

Aerie is developing a second product, Roclatan, which would provide all four of the known mechanisms for lowering interocular pressure in one medication. Roclatan would pair Rhopressa with another medication and would be marketed as a primary source of treatment for , rather than an adjunct to another treatment. The company plans to apply for FDA approval for Roclatan next year.

Rhopressa is designed to permit the release of fluids by relaxing the main drainage chamber in the eye.

The company's next step is to persuade to pay for Rhopressa. Commercial insurers represent approximately half the drug's potential U.S. market. The other half of Rhopressa users would be covered under Medicare Part D. Aerie said it expects Medicare coverage for Rhopressa to begin in January 2019.

Aerie is still negotiating with health insurers and has not publicly announced a price for Rhopressa.

The company was co-founded in 2005 by the late David Epstein, who was a medical professor at Duke, and Eric Toone, the university's vice provost and director of its Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. It is now based in Irvine, Calif., but still maintains a research and development operation in Durham.

Aerie does not disclose how many people it employs at local offices.

The company plans to hire 100 sales reps in the first quarter of 2018 to persuade doctors to prescribe the medication.

Aerie's website says Rhopressa and Roclatan represent a $5 billion market in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and the market is expected to exceed $8 billion by 2023.

Explore further: Most glaucoma patients don't ask about medication costs

8 shares

Related Stories

Most glaucoma patients don't ask about medication costs

December 2, 2017
Less than one-third of patients with glaucoma talk to their doctor about the costs of medications needed to control their disease, reports a study in the December issue of Optometry and Vision Science, the official journal ...

Six things PCPs need to know about glaucoma

December 23, 2016
(HealthDay)—Primary care physicians are in a position to help with glaucoma diagnosis and management, according to an article published in the Ophthalmology Times.

Scientists engineer drug delivery device that treats glaucoma directly inside the eye

November 23, 2017
Glaucoma, which affects over 60 million people worldwide, can seem easy to treat: medicated eye drops can be used to ease the buildup of fluid in the eye that underlies the condition. If glaucoma is caught early, eye drops ...

Major increase in U.S. glaucoma cases expected by 2030

January 9, 2017
(HealthDay)—Glaucoma affects more than three million Americans, but that number is expected to surge to more than four million by 2030, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation.

Timed-release glaucoma drug insert shows promise as alternative to daily drops

May 5, 2016
A new device that slowly releases eye medication may one day be a promising option for the many glaucoma patients who struggle with administering their own daily prescription eye drops. New research shows a medicated silicone ...

Generic eye drops for seniors could save millions of dollars a year

July 28, 2017
(HealthDay)—Prescribing generic drugs for seniors' eye problems could save the U.S. government hundreds of millions of dollars a year, a new study suggests.

Recommended for you

Widespread errors in 'proofreading' cause inherited blindness

October 12, 2018
Mistakes in "proofreading" the genetic code of retinal cells is the cause of a form of inherited blindness, retinitis pigmentosa (RP) caused by mutations in splicing factors.

Gene therapy breakthrough in treating rare form of blindness

October 9, 2018
Positive results of the world's first gene therapy trial for a genetic cause of blindness known as choroideremia have been reported in Nature Medicine.

Gene changes driving myopia reveal new focus for drug development

October 9, 2018
Myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness) develop through different molecular pathways, according to a new study publishing October 9 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Andrei Tkatchenko of Columbia ...

Dynamin-binding protein linked to congenital cataracts

October 4, 2018
Cataracts, a condition in which the eyes' natural lenses get clouded, are the most common cause of vision loss in older people and can be corrected by routine surgery. But congenital cataracts, which occur in infants and ...

Eye discovery to pave way for more successful corneal transplants

October 1, 2018
A team of eye specialists at The University of Nottingham has made another novel discovery that could help to improve the success of corneal transplants for patients whose sight has been affected by disease.

New study confirms Mediterranean diet prevents a leading cause of blindness

October 1, 2018
Evidence is mounting that a poor diet plays an important role in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in the United States. A large collaboration of researchers from the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.