Seeing the World with New Eyes

Drug bevacizumab successfully treats retinopathy of prematurity in infants

(RxWiki News) An inexpensive drug has been shown to benefit premature infants born with retinopathy (the uncontrolled growth of blood vessels in the retinas, which can lead to scarring and retinal detachment).

A clinical trial led by researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) compared the use of intravitreal bevacizumab, an anti-vascular-growth drug, to conventional laser treatment. Among infants with disease in zone I (one of the retinal zones that is hardest to successfully treat), the recurrence rate was just 6 percent with intravitreal bevacizumab but 42 percent with conventional laser therapy.

Helen A. Mintz-Hittner, M.D., the Alfred W. Lasher, III, Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science at the UTHealth Medical School, said when she began working 40 years ago, there was no available treatment for retinopathy of prematurity, but now intravitreal bevacizumab offers "a real solution."

Mintz-Hittner said that with appropriate, careful treatment of the drug, "you can get wonderful outcomes."

Intravitreal bevacizumab is delivered with a needle inserted into the eye and takes about two to three minutes to administer. The therapy requires a longer follow-up than traditional laser treatment (about 16 weeks) to make sure recurrence is avoided.

Retinopathy of prematurity is a leading cause of blindness in children, primarily affecting infants weighing 2.75 pounds (1250 grams) or less who are born before 31 weeks of gestation, according to the National Eye Institute.

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Review Date: 
February 18, 2011