Millions of Americans who find themselves squinting at their smartphone could soon have the option to ditch their reading glasses and opt for eye drops that provide sharper vision for up to 6 hours.
In October 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) quietly approved VUITY eye drops to treat presbyopia, an age-related condition that results in progressively blurry vision when focusing on near objects, according to the biopharmaceutical company AbbVie. On December 9, the drug-maker announced that the treatment is now available via prescription at pharmacies across the US.
VUITY is a first-of-its-kind once-daily eye drop that provides sharp close-range vision within 15 minutes for a duration of up to 6 hours, without impacting distance vision. Its active ingredient, a medication called pilocarpine, works by causing the pupil of the eye to shrink which helps with seeing things up close.
Presbyopia occurs when people get older as the lenses of our eyes become less flexible, making it more difficult to focus on things up close. Most people start to notice this effect in their mid-forties to fifties, with close-up vision subtly deteriorating over the next few decades. With this drug finally seeing FDA approval, pharmaceutical company AbbVie hopes the treatment could provide more options for the 128 million American adults impacted by this incredibly common condition.
"Many Americans deal with presbyopia, which typically begins around age 40, by relying on reading glasses or resorting to work-arounds like zooming in on their digital devices to see up close," Dr Selina McGee, optometrist and Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, said in a statement. "With VUITY now available, it is a good time for those who experience age-related blurry near vision to visit their eye doctor for an exam and to discuss their options to manage this common condition."
The FDA approval comes off the back of two randomized placebo-controlled phase 3 trials testing whether VUITY safely improves short-sightedness using a total of 750 participants with presbyopia aged 40 to 55 years old. Participants were asked to use one drop of VUITY or placebo once daily in each eye. By day 30, all of those who received the drug reported having sharper short sight, while no serious adverse effects were seen.
"As I've gotten older, my vision has changed, and it has become almost impossible to see clearly up close unless I wear my readers. Realizing that I needed to start using readers showed me how important it was to address this condition," said Toni Wright, clinical trial participant.
"It was great to have the opportunity to participate in the clinical study investigating a new potential treatment option. I'm so excited [that] the investigational treatment, which has been identified as VUITY, is now approved and available as a treatment to manage age-related blurry near vision."