Arthritis Drug May Treat Dry Eye Disease

Published Online: Friday, May 17, 2013
Topical anakinra, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, may be a safe and effective treatment for dry eye disease, according to a recent study published online by JAMA Ophthalmology on April 18, 2013.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted a 16-week random, double-blind study to assess the effectiveness of topical anakinra in 75 patients diagnosed with dry eye disease. Participants were selected to receive eye lubricant, 2.5% of anakinra, or 5% of anakinra.

After 12 weeks of treatment, patients receiving 2.5% anakinra saw a 46% reduction of corneal staining and a 30% decrease in their overall dry eye symptoms. The drug, in either dosage, was 6 times more effective in treating symptoms than the eye lubricant. The researchers also found that patients who stopped taking anakinra at 12 weeks had worsened symptoms by the end of the study. The participants tolerated the drug and none experienced serious side effects.

“We have never seen results such as this before in a trial to treat dry eye disease,” said lead author Reza Dana, MD, MSc, MPH, in a press release. “We possibly have found a safe, well-tolerated eye drop that an treat the underlying cause of dry eye rather than just temporarily mask the symptoms.”

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