Anti-VEGF Therapy for Diabetic Retinopathy Gets to the Root Cause

September 14, 2020

Drugs block the formation of tiny blood vessels in the retina that are prone to breaking open, resulting in bleeds that can cause serious vision impairment and blindness, explains ADA chief scientific and medical officer, Robert Gabbay, in this conclusion of a four-part video series.

When the leaky blood vessels of diabetic retinopathy occur, they compensate by sending out growth factors that spur on the growth of new blood vessels.

The trouble is that those new blood vessels are poorly formed and prone to breaking open and causing a bleed that can threaten a person’s vision.

Related: ADA's Dr. Robert Gabbay Discusses Patient, System Challenges to Eyecare

Drug treatment that block those growth factors, which are called vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGF), can interrupt this process and reduce the risk of vision impairment and loss from diabetic retinopathy.

“It really gets to the pathophysiology of the disease — preventing the development of the new blood vessels,” explained Robert Gabbay, the chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association in a recent interview with Managed Healthcare Executive. ®

The association, VSP Vision Care, and Regeneron, have launched a public health campaign to encourage people with diabetes to get annual eye exams. Regeneron markets an anti-VEGF drug called Eyelea (aflibercept).

Gabbay said another way to treat the diabetic retinopathy is to cauterize blood vessels by burning tiny holds in the retina. Gabbay said this is the “tried and true” approach but used after anti-VEGF therapy.

“Ideally, we catch things early enough to be able to use anti-VEGF therapy,” said Gabbay.