Eye experts are leading a landmark trial in the UK of a new drug that could slow the progression of an untreatable form of blindness.
Patients who have suffered some visual loss due to geographic atrophy (GA) – an advanced form of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – are receiving injections of lampalizumab.
It is believed the treatment, now in its final clinical trial phase, could reduce the area of damage in most sufferers by around 20%.
Some with a particular genetic feature could see the damage reduced by 44%, according to experts at Southampton General Hospital who are leading the UK trials.
The condition, which occurs when cells in the part of the eye responsible for vision become damaged by the build-up of waste deposits called drusen, causes progressive and permanent vision loss.
Despite accounting for 90% of all cases of AMD – the leading cause of blindness in the UK affecting around 500,000 people over the age of 50 – there are no approved treatments for either the early, intermediate or advanced forms of dry AMD.
Professor Andrew Lotery, a consultant ophthalmologist at Southampton General Hospital and the study’s chief investigator in the UK, said the study was a “major milestone” for patients and clinicians.
He said: “Lampalizumab has already been shown to reduce damage caused by GA by 20% in most cases and, for some patients with a specific genetic biomarker, by up to 44% in early-stage trials.