April 2019 — Allergy season can make your eyes itchy and red, and relief often comes in the form of eye drops. That presents challenges for contact lens wearers.

What if contact lenses were preloaded with an antihistamine to help reduce that itchiness caused by allergies?

Researchers at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care say single-use contact lenses that dispense the antihistamine ketotifen showed promising results in two Phase 3 clinical trials. Results of the study were published in the journal Cornea in March.

Lead investigator Brian Pall, director of clinical science at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, says antihistamine-dispensing lenses “look promising in their ability to reduce eye itch.”

Why put antihistamines in contacts? “Eye drops are contraindicated for contact lens wearers,” Pall says. The itchiness caused by allergies leads the contact lens wearer to rub his or her eyes, possibly damaging the lenses.

Contact lens wearers now must take out their contacts, apply eye drops and then switch to glasses until the antihistamine takes effect.

A contact lens with the antihistamine built in would “address lifestyle needs,” Pall says.

The studies found a significant reduction in eye itching 15 minutes after inserting the lenses with antihistamines and the that this relief lasted for the 12-hour study period.

How does the contact lens work? The antihistamine is embedded in the lens material and it is released over time and delivered to the surface of the eye, Pall says.

How soon might antihistamine-dispensing contact lenses be an option for allergy relief? It’s too early to tell, but Pall says Johnson & Johnson is preparing the regulatory submissions for approval.

— By Jeff Herman

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