Sight-saving drug goes into use in Philadelphia

January 15, 2013 5:51:43 AM PST
Doctors in our area are now using a newly approved drug to treat an eye problem that is common in older adults. It could help thousands of people each year.

Jetrea is the first alternative to surgery for a condition called VMA - Vitreomacular Adhesion.

Dr. Allen Ho, a retinal specialist at Wills Eye Institute, explains the eye is filled with a clear jelly. Over time, that jelly will shrink and it can start to stick and pull on the macula, which controls focus.

"Sometimes you can actually pull a hole, and that's a macular hole, which is one of the conditions that is treatable with this new medicine," says Dr. Ho.

Signs of VMA or a macular hole include blurry vision, or a sudden change in vision. But some patients with VMA have no symptoms.

71-year-old Maureen Staudenmeier of Doylestown, Bucks County found out she had a macular hole when a retina specialist scanned her eyes.

Today, with Jetrea, instead of surgery, her eye is numbed and then the drug is injected.

Dr. Ho calls this a game changer.

"The medicine goes to dissolve adhesions causing the problem in the focus point of the eye," he says.

He says for small holes, it works 60-percent of the time.

Maureen is hoping it'll work for her, so she can enjoy life with her 6 children and 16 grandchildren, and get back to some of her favorite pasttimes.

"I read a lot, I do the Times crossword puzzle, I do the jumble. All of that," she says with a smile.

Jetrea was approved by the Food & Drug Administration in October 2012.

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