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Cutting-Edge Contacts

Specially designed soft lenses may some day dispense drugs into eyes

MONDAY, March 24, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Contact lenses that dispense prescription drugs could one day be used to treat eye diseases such as glaucoma, say chemical engineers at the University of Florida.

In research presented March 23 at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans, the researchers say they've developed soft contact lenses containing tiny embedded particles that slowly release medicines directly where they're needed in the eye.

That could provide a much more effective alternative to using eye drops to deliver medication to the eyes. With eye drops, about 95 percent of the medication goes where it isn't needed.

Eye drops loaded with medication mix with tears, which then drain into the nasal cavity. From there, the medication can get into the bloodstream and travel to organs throughout the body and possibly cause serious side effects.

For example, the glaucoma drug Timolol can cause heart problems.

But medications loaded into soft contact lenses can be released slowly enough to remain in the eye. In theory, these drug-laden soft contacts could be worn for up to two weeks, delivering a steady supply of drug directly to the eye, the researchers say.

The contact lenses could still be used to correct vision while delivering the medication. In people who don't require vision correction, the contact lenses could be made without that feature.

These drug-delivery contact lenses are in the early stages of engineering and have not undergone clinical tests, researchers say.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about eye diseases.

SOURCE: American Chemical Society, news release, March 23, 2003
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