For many clinicians, loteprednol is the agent of choice for treating inflammatory conditions.
Patients commonly complain of inflammation from a variety of causes, some of which are irritating and others that are potentially damaging. Dry eye is perhaps the most common cause of ocular inflammation, but other maladies include allergy, conjunctivitis and iritis.
Addressing allergic inflammation
Not too long ago, clinicians considered steroids the class of last resort, but new formulations and improved efficacy have made these agents a viable option for treating the gamut of ocular inflammatory disorders. But the question still remains: When is it appropriate to begin steroid therapy?
"If a patient's eye is very hot, itchy and uncomfortable, and he can't wear his contact lenses, I'll immediately start him on a 2- to 3-week course of loteprednol etabonate 0.5% (Lotemax)," says Walter S. Ramsey, O.D, F.A.A.O.
Paul M. Karpecki, O.D., F.A.A.O., agrees. "Using steroids sooner has had a positive impact on my practice," he says. "If I see a patient with swollen, red eyes, I'm not going to wait for a combination steroid/antiinflammatory to kick in."
Another panelist who uses steroids as first-line therapy is Ron Melton, O.D., F.A.A.O. "I've been using steroids more and more," he says. "I use loteprednol to reduce inflammation in symptomatic patients and then I revert to monotherapy with artificial tears or azelastine hydrochloride 0.05% (Optivar) to control their symptoms."
Most of the panelists agree they use steroid therapy for patients whose symptoms interfere with their daily activities.
"If a patient's symptoms are merely annoying, I'll usually prescribe the more traditional anti-allergy drugs before moving on to steroids," says Jimmy D. Bartlett, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Effective treatment for GPG
One condition Dr. Bartlett treats immediately with steroids is giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC). In a phase II study, he and his colleagues administered loteprednol or a placebo to 100 patients with GPC and contact lens intolerance. The patients were not permitted to wear their contact lenses for the duration of the study.
"Loteprednol reduced inflammation and papillae size substantially better than placebo," Dr. Bartlett says. "But we wanted to make sure it was the drug and not abstaining from contact lenses that relieved the patients' inflammation."
In a subsequent 6-week phase III study, Dr. Bartlett and his colleagues applied loteprednol or placebo on top of patients' contact lenses. "Loteprednol relieved the GPC symptoms without affecting corneal integrity or causing an infection," says Dr. Bartlett.
To date, loteprednol is the only steroid that has an FDA indication to work against GPC.
Start with a bang
Acute inflammatory conditions, such as ocular allergies and GPC, respond to steroid therapy, but does loteprednol have a role in treating potentially recurring conditions like iritis? When polled, the panelists responded with a resounding "yes."
"We need to hit iritis early and hit it big," Dr. Bartlett says. Dr. Melton agrees: "The goal in treating iritis - even mild to moderate cases - is to control inflammation with aggressive treatment so it doesn't damage uveal blood vessels. This kind of damage can create a recurrent and inflammatory condition."
The panelists offered several iritis treatment scenarios. "About 70% to 80% of all uveitis patients do very well on loteprednol. Only the most severe cases might require another medication, such as prednisolone acetate (Pred Forte)," Dr. Bartlett says. "I prescribe loteprednol alone every 1 or 2 hours while awake for the first 24 to 48 hours, rather than starting at q.i.d. After 2 days, I begin to taper."
Dr. Karpecki emphasizes the importance of this hourly dosing. "Many of the patients I see with lingering iritis started using loteprednol or other steroids q.i.d., which wasn't frequent enough to resolve the problem", he says. "I'd rather overtreat and taper than risk having a patient develop long-term problems."
Inflammation plays such a significant role in so many ocular conditions that it only makes sense to treat these conditions with an effective anti-inflammatory agent. The panelists agree its broad labeling and proven clinical efficacy suggest that loteprednol may be what eye doctors are looking for.
Copyright Boucher Communications, Inc. Feb 2005
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