Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the most common diabetic eye disease and is a leading cause of blindness in adults in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes (type 1 and type 2) affects more than 29 million people in the United States and is the leading cause of new blindness among people ages 20 to 74 years. In 2008, 33 percent of adults with diabetes aged 40 years or older had some form of DR. In some cases of DR with diabetic macular edema (DME), abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. Severe vision loss or blindness can occur if the new blood vessels break.
"Diabetes is a serious public health crisis, affecting more patients every year," said Edward Cox, M.D., M.P.H, director of the Office of Antimicrobial Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Today's approval gives patients with diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema another therapy to treat this vision-impairing complication."
In February, the FDA approved Lucentis (ranibizumab injection) 0.3 mg to treat DR in patients with DME.
Eylea is administered by a physician as an injection into the eye once a month for the first five injections and then once every two months. It is intended to be used along with appropriate interventions to control blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.
The safety and efficacy of Eylea to treat DR in patients with DME were evaluated in 679 participants in two clinical studies where participants were randomly assigned to receive Eylea or macular laser photocoagulation, a laser-based treatment used to burn small areas of the retina. At week 100, participants being treated with Eylea showed significant improvement in the severity of their DR, compared to patients who did not receive Eylea.
The most common side effects associated with Eylea include bleeding of the conjunctiva (the tissue that lines the inside of the eyelids and covers the white part of the eye); eye pain; cataracts; floaters; increased pressure inside the eye (increased intraocular pressure); and separation of the interior jelly of the eye from the retina (vitreous detachment). Serious adverse reactions include infection within the eye (endophthalmitis) and retinal detachments.
The FDA granted breakthrough therapy designation to Eylea for the treatment of DR with DME. The FDA can designate a drug a breakthrough therapy at the request of the sponsor if preliminary clinical evidence indicates the drug may demonstrate a substantial improvement over available therapies for patients with serious or life-threatening conditions. The FDA also reviewed the new use for Eylea under the agency's priority review program, which provides for an expedited review of drugs that demonstrate the potential to be a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness in the treatment of a serious condition.
The FDA previously approved Eylea to treat wet (neovascular) age-related macular degeneration, a condition in which abnormal blood vessels grow and leak fluid into the macula. Eylea is also approved to treat DME and macular edema secondary to retinal vein occlusions, both of which cause fluid to leak into the macula resulting in blurred vision.
Eylea is marketed by Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. Lucentis is marketed by South San Francisco, California-based Genentech, a subsidiary of Roche Pharmaceuticals.