A new drug-releasing device is effective in treating cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis, a sight-threatening disease that affects one out of four people with AIDS, according to results of a National Eye Institute clinical trial. The 4-millimeter-diameter device, called a ganciclovir(Drug information on ganciclovir) implant, is surgically placed into the eye, where it releases the antiviral drug ganciclovir (Cyclovene) over a period of several months.
Currently, CMV retinitis is controlled through treatment with intravenous ganciclovir or foscarnet (Foscavir). Because people with AIDS are never cured of CMV retinitis, they must undergo daily intravenous treatment for the rest of their lives. To improve the treatment and quality of life for these people, researchers have sought alternative therapies for CMV retinitis, such as the ganciclovir implant, that would prove safe and effective and spare them the daily inconvenience of intravenous treatment.
The findings, published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, show that AIDS patients treated with the ganciclovir implant had no progression of newly diagnosed CMV retinitis for about 8 months. Among those who received no immediate treatment after diagnosis, the eye infection worsened in about 15 days.
"These findings provide strong scientific evidence that this experimental device can help to improve the treatment and potentially the quality of life for thousands of AIDS patient worldwide with CMV retinitis," said Dr. Carl Kupfer, Director of the National Eye Institute.