Could drug-eluting contact lenses replace or augment traditional eye drops for chronic conditions in which non-compliance reduces efficacy?

The technology has the capability to greatly improve ocular drug delivery, as traditional eye drops are a highly inefficient method of administering medication. Typically, only 1% to 5% of the drug actually reaches the eye when using eye drops.1

Researchers from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology, Boston Children’s Hospital and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made progress toward this goal by developing a drug-eluting contact lens used for glaucoma management.

Designed using FDA-approved materials, the lenses contain the popular IOP-lowering drug latanoprost.

The lenses, which are created by encapsulating a latanoprost-polymer film directly into a hydrogel contact lens, are capable of releasing the encapsulated drug into the eye over an extended period of time.

The lenses achieved latanoprost concentrations in the aqueous similar to those of daily topical administration over the course of one month in vivo—the first evidence that lenses can provide controlled release of medication to the eye for this long. In animal studies, the lenses appeared safe.

This noninvasive method of ocular drug delivery may in the future help to greatly improve both the bioavailability of drugs and patient adherence.

1. Novack GD. Ophthalmic drug delivery: development and regulatory considerations. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2009;85(5):539-543.