Glaucoma, an affliction faced by 2-3 million Americans, requires life-long treatment to stave off irreversible blindness. Yet, patient compliance with the twice- or thrice-daily eye-drop prescriptions needed to treat this disease is estimated to be as low as 50%. Because of this, clinicians have frequently called on the pharmaceutical industry to develop glaucoma treatments that improve patient compliance with more convenient dosing schedules.
However, the last sustained release glaucoma treatment, a once-weekly ocular insert, was approved in the 1970's and has since been outmoded by newer medications with fewer side-effects.
The current dearth of long-acting glaucoma medications stems not from a direct limitation of the drug delivery vehicles, but rather from the significant investment required to develop them. Currently about a year of heuristic experiments are required to hone in on a drug delivery formulation that is suitable for preclinical testing. This opportunity cost has thus far prevent development of long-acting dosage forms for all but a select number of blockbuster medications.
Fortunately, the researchers from Little Lab at the University of Pittsburgh have recently developed new mathematical models that are beginning to change this figure. In short, their predictive algorithms bring unparalleled, speed, accuracy and efficient to the design of long-acting drug formulations by eliminating the need for iterative experiments. With this technology, long-acting glaucoma medications can be designed and carried through successful testing in preliminary animal models well-under one year.
Because of this, Dr. Steven R. Little has recently teamed up with Dr. Joel S. Schuman of the UPMC Eye Center to develop a once-a-month formulation of brominidine tartrate (BT), a common glaucoma medication. This new dosage form will represent a vast (90 fold) improvement over BT's currently thrice-daily dosing schedule and establish proof-in-principal that other glaucoma treatments can also be cost-effectively reformulated into long-acting medications.