What New Treatments Are Being Studied For Chronic Dry Eye?
Research helps scientists and doctors understand enough about our bodies to treat or even cure what goes wrong. New research, drugs, and treatments for chronic dry eye are always changing. Although chronic dry eye does not have a cure, these new drugs and treatments are a step closer to helping people effectively manage this condition.
New drugs on the horizon
DNase (recombinant deoxyribonuclease)
Inflammation plays a key role in the development of chronic dry eye. The exact way inflammation leads to dry eye is not well known. Researchers have found that certain inflammatory cells are found on the surface of the eye in those with chronic dry eye.1
DNase is an enzyme in the body. It acts as a type of clean-up crew to clear out these inflammatory cells by breaking up DNA that forms the cells. If inflammation on the surface of the eye is decreased, symptoms of chronic dry eye may be reduced.1
DNase is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cystic fibrosis (CF) as an inhaled medicine. DNase as an eye drop solution is still in clinical trials and not yet approved by the FDA.1
As of early 2021, Reproxalap completed phase 2b clinical trials as a new treatment for decreasing inflammation in chronic dry eye. This drug works in a new way that targets a specific inflammatory molecule that is increased in the tears of those with chronic dry eye. Applied directly to the eye, this new eye drop is expected to continue in the FDA approval process.2,3
As of early 2021, LacripepTM finished phase 2 clinical trials to treat chronic dry eye associated with Sjӧgren’s syndrome. Sjӧgren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that leads to dry eyes and dry mouth. Autoimmune means the body targets its own tissues or cells for destruction, leading to inflammation and dysfunction. The exact cause of Sjӧgren’s syndrome is not known.2,4
As of early 2021, Visomitin is an eye drop in phase 3 of clinical trials. This drug is a unique antioxidant that decreases inflammation. Antioxidants are substances that protect your body against free radicals (things that can damage the cells in your body). Visomitin may help treat many conditions or diseases with chronic inflammation if it is shown to be effective and safe.2,5-7
The FDA may approve NOV03 (100 percent perfluorohexyloctane) in 2021 as the first drug developed to treat chronic dry eye due to meibomian gland dysfunction. The meibomian glands of the eyes are responsible for the secretion of the oily (lipid) layer of the tear film. When not working properly, the tear film evaporates too quickly and leads to chronic dry eye symptoms. This condition is known as meibomian gland dysfunction, or MGD.2,8
NOV03 may be able to both prevent evaporation of the tear film and help dissolve thickened oil (meibum). This may lead to decreased irritation symptoms on the surface of the eye and help relieve other dry eye symptoms.2,8
New discoveries or treatments
Finding sources of inflammation in chronic dry eye is the first step in finding new treatments. In 2020, scientists discovered a breakthrough in a potential cause of inflammation in people with primary Sjӧgren’s syndrome.9
The scientists discovered that those with Sjӧgren’s syndrome have an increased amount of a certain molecule called micro-RNA-744 (mi-RNA-744). Scientists found that this molecule “turns on” inflammation on the surface of the eye. These researchers were also able to decrease this molecule, which reduced inflammation. This is an exciting first step to finding a drug that could help treat chronic dry eye linked to Sjӧgren’s syndrome.9