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New Drug Approved to Treat Leading Cause of Blindness in Diabetes

Published: 7/18/22
By Andrew Briskin

The FDA approved Beovu (brolucizumab) to treat diabetic macular edema for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. This medication could potentially help you or someone you love protect against diabetes-related vision loss.

Diabetic macular edema (DME) is one of the most common diabetes-related eye complications and causes of vision loss. In fact, approximately 12% of people with type 1 and 28% of people with type 2 are affected by DME. The condition is also among the leading causes of blindness and vision loss worldwide.

DME occurs when blood vessels in the eyes become damaged, and fluid starts to leak into the macula, a part of the retina that is responsible for a person’s most vivid, central vision. This buildup often happens because new small blood vessels form in the macula, a process driven by a hormone called VEGF. Beovu is a VEGF inhibitor, a type of drug which stops the formation of new blood vessels in the macula and can prevent further fluid buildup.

Before its new indication as a treatment for DME, Beovu was approved by the FDA in 2019 for another diabetes-related eye condition called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), another leading cause of blindness. The drug was also approved for DME in Europe in March 2022.

Beovu’s approval for DME follows encouraging data from two phase 3 clinical trials called KESTREL and KITE. These trials compared Beovu to Eylea, a similar eye medication that is the current standard treatment for DME. Study results showed that people taking Beovu had similar improvements in visual acuity (ability to distinguish shapes and objects) and reductions in fluid buildup when compared to the impact of Eylea. 

Also, while overall improvements in eyesight were comparable between the two drugs, Beovu requires fewer doses for the same effect. Both Beovu and Eylea are given by injection to the eyeball, which requires a visit to the clinic. In the KESTREL and KITE studies, participants who received Eylea got one injection per month for the first five months, followed by injections every eight weeks In comparison, participants receiving Beovu had their first five injections six weeks apart, followed by injections once every 12 weeks. While the frequency of this treatment sometimes changed based on an individual's needs, in both studies, over 50% of participants on Beovu continued with the 12-week intervals through the full two-year study.

The approval of Beovu as a treatment for DME marks another improvement in the treatment options for diabetes-related eye diseases, following the approval of the new drug Vabysmo in February 2022. The need for fewer injections could have a significant effect on easing the burden of receiving eye treatments necessary to protect against vision loss. For people with DME, this means fewer visits to the clinic, fewer injections to the eye, and potentially lower cost of treatment based on the need for fewer doses. 

To learn more about diabetes-related eye diseases, medications, and preserving your eye health, check out diaTribe’s resources here.

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About the authors

Andrew Briskin joined the diaTribe Foundation in 2021 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Health and Societies . Briskin is an Editor for diaTribe Learn.... Read the full bio »