New use of drug could reduce need for laser treatment in diabetes


A joint study by Moorfields Eye Hospital and King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre has shown that the new use of a drug could reduce the need for laser treatment in patients with diabetic eye disease.

The results from the CLARITY study into the use of aflibercept, an anti-VEGF drug, show that it can benefit patients with early proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In this condition, very small blood vessels grow from the surface of the retina. These tiny blood vessels – or capillaries - are very delicate and bleed easily and, without treatment, the bleeding causes scar tissue which can result in loss of vision.

Aflibercept has already been shown to have transformed the care of patients with other types of diabetic eye disease, such as diabetic maculopathy. These findings now demonstrate the potential to improve outcomes and experience for the significant number of patients who suffer from proliferative diabetic retinopathy each year. The drug works by preventing the growth of the new blood vessels on the retina. Currently patients with this condition require laser treatment, which prevents blindness, but some vision can be lost.

Anyone with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes is potentially at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. People who have had diabetes a long time or who have a persistently high blood sugar level are at higher risk.

Prof Sobha Sivaprasad, medical retina consultant at Moorfields, who led the study says: “Findings from the CLARITY study shows that patients can be safely initiated on aflibercept therapy for proliferative diabetic retinopathy for at least a year with superior outcomes when compared to standard laser treatment. The study results are likely to change clinical practice globally.”

Dr David Hopkins, joint leader of the King’s Health Partners Diabetes Clinical Academic Group and clinical director for Ambulatory Medicines at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust says:

“This study has shown the potential to improve the care we can provide for people with diabetic eye disease. It has however also highlighted the impact that poor diabetes control can have on eyesight. By keeping your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing diabetic retinopathy.”

The research was funded by an MRC and NIHR partnership and supported by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital, UCL and Kings Clinical Trials Unit at King’s Health Partners. 

The full research paper is available to download at:

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