Patients whose eyesight is threatened when medicine injected directly into the eyes is unsuccessful in causing abnormal blood vessels to recede may have new hope.
While injectable drugs called angiogenesis (an-gee-oh-jen-esis) inhibitors are considered a modern miracle and have become the standard of care for patients with the fast-progressive form of macular degeneration, they are not foolproof.
For the first time researchers report that an oral nutriceutical, used on a last resort basis, rapidly restores vision to otherwise hopeless patients who face permanent loss.
Stuart Richer OD, PhD, Director, Ocular Preventative Medicine-Eye Clinic, James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center, North Chicago, Illinois, said all other therapies were exhausted before employing the oral nutriceutical under compassionate-use protocols on a case-by-case basis.
Usually most patients respond to medicine injected directly into the eyes, he said, but about one in three patients recover driving vision and one in six patients go on to experience permanent vision loss and others may refuse needle injections directly into the eyes, making them candidates for this rescue medicine.
One striking case is an 88-year old woman whom retinal specialists said was beyond any help offered by conventional medicines or surgery. The nutriceutical helped this hospitalized woman regain her ability to see faces, read a menu and visualize her handwriting in just four days.
"As she was an inpatient were also able to observe that her 40-year history of low-blood pressure and migraines improved after months of use," said Dr. Richer.
In another case a 75-year old man with failing vision experienced recovery of vision in 5 days and was able to renew his driver's license after taking just 7 nutriceutical capsules.
Dr. Richer said 16 of the first 17 cases responded positively to nutriceutical medicine. There were no side effects reported. Because these patients faced impending loss of vision, for ethical reasons no patients received inactive placebo pills.
He said it is unknown whether this nutriceutical produces such positive results in the more common dry form of macular degeneration, but the benefit to vision is typically observed in both eyes and is self-evident.
Dr. Richer said in these first cases he has monitored, blind spots (called scotomas) disappear, time to recover from bright light (glare recovery) is reduced, and contrast vision (shades of grey) as well as visual acuity (ability to see letters on a chart) generally improve within 3-6 weeks with the nutriceutical.
"With our instruments we documented a more youthful appearance of retinal tissues as well as improved underlying circulation. There were also other improvements in health observed or measured outside of the eyes that were unanticipated," noted Dr. Richer.
Only in recent years has there been a reliable way to treat wet macular degeneration, a disorder where abnormal blood vessels invade the visual center (macula) of the eyes.
Any of three FDA-approved drugs, Avastin, Lucentis and Eylea, are needle-injected into the white of the eye to diminish the formation of these abnormal blood vessels.
These are considered miracle drugs. Re-treatment is usually necessary every six to eight weeks. However, since these drugs are not foolproof, oral antioxidant therapy was employed with measurable success.
Dr. Richer selected a particular nutriceutical mixture of vitamins and small herbal molecules (Longevinex) because of its extensive testing and proven ability to favourably alter genes in a superior manner to other available nutriceuticals.
Dr. Richer cautions that other similar store-bought products are not likely to produce the same rapid results seen among his patients.