Eyes and Vision

Ask the ophthalmologist: Will new eye drops really eliminate need for readers?

Eyes and Vision

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent approval of eye drops to help treat age-related blurred near-vision, or presbyopia, raises hopes for the nearly 128 million Americans who deal with the progressive eye condition. It also raises some questions.

For answers about pilocarpine hydrochloride ophthalmic solution (better known by its brand name Vuity), we turned to William Waldrop, M.D., an Assistant Professor in UT Southwestern’s Department of Ophthalmology.

Is Vuity a game-changer for adults in their 40s and 50s?

While certainly not earthshaking, Vuity does seem to be a better option than some pupil-changing drops that have been used in the past to delay the effects of age-related blurred vision. Approved by the FDA in October, the drops work fast (as soon as 15 minutes) and have a decent duration (up to 10 hours).

Vuity is not a cure for presbyopia, however, and patients should be aware that the magic wears off – after about 6-10 hours —and have to be applied each day for their beneficial effect on vision.

How do the eye drops work?

Once a day you put a drop in each eye and the pilocarpine, which is an optimized version of an established therapeutic, works by signaling the eye to reduce the size of its pupil to improve near and intermediate vision.

The drops were tested in two phase 3 clinical trials that involved 750 people between the ages of 40 and 55 with presbyopia. A high percentage of study participants who received the eye drops (and not the placebo) were able to read at least three more lines on an eye chart in low light without losing distance vision.

Will the drops eliminate the need for readers?

Glasses independence for patients in their 40s and 50s will still not have a one-size-fits-all solution, but I think these new drops will eliminate the need for readers in some situations for patients who are dealing with presbyopia and do not want to sacrifice depth perception. I also think the drops have the potential to extend the benefit of Lasik by boosting computer or handheld device vision, and they may also bridge the gap for some patients before there is a need for cataract surgery or other refractive options. It is important to note that clinical trials included participants between the ages of 40 and 55. The drops are likely to be less effective as patients age, particularly after age 65.

Are there any side effects?

Some trial participants experienced headaches and eye redness, so patients will have to demonstrate they can tolerate these mild side effects before the drops can be prescribed.

How much will the drops cost?

Vuity has been priced at $79 for a 30-day supply for now, and it’s unlikely the drops will be covered by insurance because they may not be deemed medically necessary. Readers are still a more economical option.

If you’re tired of wearing glasses to see things up close, you can discuss the newly approved eye drops as an option with an eye care specialist at UT Southwestern. Call 214-645-2020 or request an appointment online.