Glaucoma is a major cause of blindness throughout the world. There are several different types of glaucoma, some of which can be caused by medications. A group of drugs called glucocorticoids or "steroids" are widely used for treating a number of common eye conditions and diseases but can often cause an increase in pressure in the eyes (ocular hypertension) that can threaten sight. Eye pressure increase from steroids occurs in up to one-third of the general population and over 50% of people with other forms of glaucoma.
In a study published by Duke University researchers, "Anti-fibrotic activity of a rho-kinase inhibitor restores outflow function and intraocular pressure homeostasis," published March 30, 2021 in the journal ELife, reports that an FDA-approved drug called netarsudil, a rho-kinase inhibitor, decreased steroid induced ocular hypertension in clinical patients whose intraocular pressures were poorly controlled by standard medications.
To better understand the process of the positive effect of netarsudial, the researchers used a mouse model of glucocorticoid-induced ocular hypertension and found that the drug both reduced and prevented elevated intraocular pressure.
Netarsudil acts by relaxing the trabecular meshwork or the “drain” of the eye, and may prevent long-term changes such as fibrosis (i.e. like scarring) in this tissue.
This is an important discovery in treating glaucoma and helping prevent vision loss. The findings suggest the need for a randomized prospective clinical study to determine if netarsudil is superior to first-line anti-glaucoma drugs in lowering steroid induced ocular hypertension, and if it could therefore become a mainstream treatment for patients.