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Drug May Reverse Type 1 Diabetes Ocular Complications

Naltrexone hydrochloride normalizes tear production and corneal sensitivity in diabetic rats

MONDAY, Nov. 16 (HealthDay News) -- In rats induced with type 1 diabetes, topical treatment with naltrexone hydrochloride (NTX), an opioid antagonist, reverses dry eye and restores corneal sensitivity, according to a study in the November issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Ian S. Zagon, Ph.D., of the Pennsylvania State University in Hershey, and colleagues used streptozotocin to induce type 1 diabetes in rats. One group of rats received either NTX eye drops or sterile vehicle once only, while two other groups of rats received either NTX eye drops or sterile vehicle four times a day for one day or five days.

The researchers found that one drop of NTX once only or four times a day for one or five days normalized tear production and corneal sensitivity within one hour of administration. They also found that the effect on tear production persisted for as long as three days and that the effect on corneal sensation persisted for four to seven days.

"This would suggest the need for the initiation of clinical trials examining the safety and efficacy of this drug for ocular use," the authors write. "Moreover, it may be reasonable to evaluate the impact of NTX on other non-ocular complications of diabetes, such as peripheral neuropathy, and its role, if any, in the treatment of other disorders of corneal sensitivity and/or tear production."

Several authors reported the filing of a provisional patent on the use of opioid antagonists to treat dry eye.

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