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Novartis is going after a $5 billion market with a new treatment for vision loss. That’s a big threat to Regeneron

Novartis is going after a $5 billion market with a new treatment for vision loss. That’s a big threat to Regeneron

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan

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Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan
source
Reuters
  • Novartis’ drug brolucizumab just showed that it wasn’t any worse than a rival drug called Eylea at treating an eye condition known as age-related macular degeneration.
  • It confirmed what the company had previously found after one year, that Novartis’ drug was also better at reducing retinal thickness and retinal fluid compared to Eylea, two factors that are key in reducing the symptoms of the disease.
  • Novartis plans to submit brolucizumab for FDA review by the end of 2018.

Novartis is gearing up to shake up a huge eye-drug market.

In data presented Saturday at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual conference, Novartis’ drug brolucizumab showed that it wasn’t any worse than Eylea, an existing drug to treat a condition called age-related macular degeneration. The pair of late-stage trials evaluated brolucizumab over two years.

With this data in hand, Novartis plans to submit brolucizumab to the FDA for approval before the end of the year, with a potential approval in 2019.

If approved, brolucizumab would go up against Eylea and Lucentis, two treatments for AMD developed by Regeneron and Genentech/Novartis respectively that are part of the $4.9 billion global macular degeneration market. The drugs are all injected into the eye. Novartis’ new drug would be given once every three months, while Eylea is injected once every eight weeks.

The trial also confirmed what the company had previously found in a shorter study: that Novartis’ drug was also better at reducing retinal thickness and retinal fluid compared to Eylea, two factors that are important in reducing the symptoms of the disease.

Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in the US in people over 50, according to the National Eye Institute. It affects more than 2 million Americans and an estimated 20-25 million globally, blurring their vision and making it harder to drive, read, and recognize faces. Patients can live with AMD for years, which means getting information on how the new drug works over time is key.

“It is important to also be able to tell the community what happens when you follow people for another year,” Novartis Pharmaceuticals chief medical officer Shreeram Aradhye told Business Insider.

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan told Business Insider in 2017 the development of brolucizumab is part of the “next chapter of innovation at the company” for eye conditions.

See also:

Blue light emitted from smartphones and laptops accelerates blindness by making a molecule in our eyes toxic, according to a new study

Blue light emitted from smartphones and laptops accelerates blindness by making a molecule in our eyes toxic, according to a new study

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Shutterstock/Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley
  • A new study has shown how blue light can cause macular degeneration – one of the leading causes of blindness.
  • Blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina.
  • The study found blue light turns a molecule in the eye into a cell-killing poison.
  • It kills photoreceptor cells, which do not regenerate.
  • Special sunglasses that filter blue light might hep, but specialists are undecided about how much good they actually do.

Staring at screens all day isn’t good for us – we know this. It can cause eye strain, sometimes called computer vision syndrome, and the light is so bright it can mimic sunlight, mess with our hormones, and prevent us from feeling sleepy.

The blue light tablets, smartphones, and laptops emit is so bright we can see our screens on a sunny day. It’s not natural to be looking at such intense light all day long, so it’s no wonder research is starting to find how bad it is for us.

According to a new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, this blue light might speed up our chance of becoming blind. Previous studies have shown how harmful blue light is, but researchers from The University of Toledo have shown the mechanism of how it can make molecules become “toxic.”

The team found that shining blue light on eye cells transforms vital molecules into cell-killing poison – which can lead to age-related macular degeneration, one of the biggest worldwide causes of blindness.

“We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it,” said Ajith Karunarathne, assistant professor in the UT Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and one of the authors of the study.

“It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina. Our experiments explain how this happens, and we hope this leads to therapies that slow macular degeneration, such as a new kind of eye drop.”

Macular degeneration occurs when photoreceptor cells in the retina die. They do not regenerate, so “when they’re dead, they’re dead for good,” said Kasun Ratnayake, a PhD student researcher and another author of the study.

Retinal – a substance formed by oxidation of vitamin A – changes and kills photoreceptor cells by dissolving some of their membranes.

The team added retinal molecules to other body cells, like cancer cells, heart cells, and neurons, and they also died when exposed to blue light because of the retinal becoming poisonous. Without the retinal, blue light had no effect on the other types of cell.

“No activity is sparked with green, yellow or red light,” said Karunarathne. “The retinal-generated toxicity by blue light is universal. It can kill any cell type.”

Normally, there’s a molecule in our eyes called alpha tocopherol, which is a natural antioxidant, and it stops photoreceptor cells from dying. But as we age, or our immune system takes a hit, we lose the ability to fight against the toxic retinal attack – and that’s when the damage occurs.

Karunarathne said you can use special sunglasses that filter both UV and blue light to try and combat the effects, but experts are unsure whether they do that much good.

You can also try and avoid smartphones and laptops when it’s dark – something you should be doing anyway if you want to get a good night’s sleep.

“Every year more than two million new cases of age-related macular degeneration are reported in the United States,” Karunarathne said. “We hope to find a way to protect the vision of children growing up in a high-tech world.”

5 things you’re doing every day that could be hurting your eyes, even if you think you have perfect vision

5 things you’re doing every day that could be hurting your eyes, even if you think you have perfect vision

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S. Alemdar/Getty Images
  • Your eyes are precious, but people often take them for granted.
  • Even those with perfect vision should visit an eye doctor regularly to get checked for common eye diseases, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
  • To take care of your eyes, it’s important to visit an eye specialist regularly, wear sunglasses, avoid smoking, and eat healthy vegetables.
  • Luckily, staring at a screen all day won’t damage your eyes permanently, but it can cause strain on the visual system.
  • Here are five common ways people hurt their eyes every day, and how to avoid them.

We know we shouldn’t look directly at the sun, because it can cause serious eye damage even after a few seconds, according to Healthline. But there are plenty of other everyday habits that can hurt our eyes over time.

Business Insider spoke with Christopher J. Quinn, O.D., president of the American Optometric Association, to get some insight into how we may be damaging our eyes without even realizing it.

Even if you think your vision seems fine, these five things could be hurting your eyesight:


1. Staring at screens for too long

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Looking at screens for too long can cause stress in the visual system.
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Samuel Borges Photography /Shutterstock

In a single day, think of all the screens you may encounter – your smartphone, GPS, computer, TV, tablet, and more.

Fortunately, all those hours of screen time probably aren’t causing physical damage to your eyes, according to Christopher Quinn, president of the American Optometric Association. However, looking at screens for too long can cause stress in the visual system.

“That stress can result in eye strain, headaches, difficulty with focusing – a number of things that can impact quality of life overall,” Quinn told Business Insider.

It’s probably impossible to avoid screens all together. Instead, Quinn suggests practicing the20-20-20 rule, which calls for you to look away from the screen every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds and look instead at an object that’s at least 20 feet away. It gives you an opportunity to refresh your eyes, he said.


2. Not wearing sunglasses

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Exposure to UV rays over time can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration.
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WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock

Whether the sky is sunny or overcast, the sun’s harmful rays can still impact our eyes. You don’t have to stare directly at the sun to experience damage. In fact, sun exposure over time can lead to cataracts andmacular degeneration, which is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults, Quinn said.

Sunglasses can help protect against that damage, but it’s important to wear ones that protect against ultraviolet (UV) light, according to theNational Eye Institute.

“UV light-absorbing sunglasses mitigate that risk substantially,” Quinn said. “Normally, high-quality sunglasses will filter 95% or more of the harmful rays of the sun.”


3. Smoking cigarettes

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Smoking cigarettes can negatively affect eye health (among many other things).
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fongbeerredhot/shutterstock

Aside from increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, smoking cigarettes can also affect eye health, according to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention.

Just like sun exposure, smoking can increase the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.


4. Not eating your veggies

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Eating plenty of vegetables is good for your eyes.
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Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock.com

A diet rich in vegetables can help maintain the health of certain parts of the eye.

“Essential antioxidants and vitamins can have a protective effect on the health of the retina – the light sensitive tissue which lines the back wall of the eye,” Quinn said.

In particular, he said leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach may help provide that effect.

However, the common belief that eating carrots helps improve your night-time vision is actually a myth datingback to British propaganda from World War II. Although the orange veggie is good for eye health, it doesn’t give you any sort of super power.


5. Avoiding the eye doctor

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Annual eye exams are useful for almost everyone.
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Image Point Fr/Shutterstock

Even if don’t have problems with your vision, getting an annual eye exam is still important for a number of reasons.

First, progressive damage to your eyes can happen without you noticing or feeling it. For example, about half of people with glaucoma – a group of diseases that impact the optic nerve – aren’t aware they have it, according to the CDC. That’s because there are often no symptoms, especially in early stages.

Additionally, during an exam, an eye doctor may find signs of other health problems.

“They can identify not just things that impact the eye, but also a host of systemic diseases, like diabetes and hypertension, which can have manifestations in the eye before the disease becomes really clinically apparent to the patient,” Quinn said.

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