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World's First Drug-Delivering Contact Lens Has Been Approved In US

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Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockMar 3 2022, 15:09 UTC
Contact lens.

Itchy eyes, be gone. Image credit: life-literacy/Shutterstock.com

Allergy sufferers rejoice: the world’s first drug-delivering contact lens has just been approved in the US.

Johnson & Johnson has developed a daily disposable contact lens that's coated with ketotifen, a widely used antihistamine used to treat allergies such as hayfever. Dubbed ACUVUE Theravision, the lens aims to help people who wear daily contact lenses but also suffer from allergies that can make their eyes uncomfortable. 

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Already available in Japan and Canada, the medication-laced contact lenses have just been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as per an announcement from Johnson & Johnson. So, theoretically, they could become available to Americans very shortly, although there's currently not much information about the rollout. 

The approval follows recent Phase 3 clinical studies, published in the journal Cornea, which found the lens was effective at reducing itchy eyes as quickly as three minutes after being inserted, as well as providing relief for up to 12 hours. The study, which involved 244 people, found the effect was similar to direct topical drug delivery, but without the hassle of administering eye drops. 

"[Contact lens] drug delivery provides several advantages over direct topical ophthalmic application. Combining vision correction and therapeutic treatment for allergy increases compliance for both conditions by simplifying overall management," the study reads. 

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Around 40 percent of contact lens wearers say they suffer from itchy eyes due to allergies and almost 80 percent of contact lens wearers with eye allergies claim they are frustrated when allergies interfere with their normal contact lens wear. With these lenses, those frustrations could be alleviated.

“Ocular allergic itch in contact lens wearers may soon be an issue of the past thanks to the decision of the FDA in approving Acuvue Theravision with Ketotifen,”  Brian Pall, Director of Clinical Science at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, said in a statement

“These new lenses may help keep more people in contact lenses, since they relieve allergic eye itch for up to 12 hours, without the need for allergy drops, and provide vision correction,” added Pall.


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