Hope for a Dry AMD Treatment

Last updated: December 2021

“There will probably be a cure in your lifetime.”

Trips to the retinal specialist

This was what my retinal specialist said two visits ago, and I quietly wondered how long she expected me to live. None of us is getting any younger! She was referring to a cure for dry age-related macular degeneration.

At my last visit, I was going to ask her more about this, but she was obviously pressed for time, and I decided to let it go. She doesn’t have a crystal ball any more than I do, but I would have liked to have heard her opinions on the latest research.

Researching a cure

So, I did some research of my own and found something quite interesting to me. It was an article headed “Potential new treatment for dry AMD”. This is very personal for me because my mother was legally blind for many years with dry macular degeneration. Hearing the doctor tell her repeatedly that there was nothing he could do for her dry AMD was heartbreaking.

Haven’t we all wished there were “real” treatments for this dry form of the disease?

At the moment, we already know there are steps we can take to slow the progression of AMD, but they aren’t treatments. Most of us are aware of the diet and lifestyle changes we can make, and the AREDS2 supplements we can take, if they are recommended for us. But the studies for these AREDS supplements were conducted many years ago now, and nothing much has changed since then in the medical approach to dry AMD.

Potential new treatment

So, I was surprised, and a little bit excited, when this “potential new treatment” was reported on the Macular Disease Foundation Australia website on September 13, 2021. This is the national peak organization representing the interests of millions of people with macular degeneration in Australia. No “dodgy” claims will be made or reported here! The announcement said the “prospect of a treatment for advanced dry AMD had moved one step further”.

What's the treatment?

So, what was this treatment? I will give you my personal, non-scientific version below, and here is the link to the Macular Disease Foundation Australia article.

Two large Phase III clinical trials of a treatment for dry AMD announced their results on September 9, 2021. The company, Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., was trialing a treatment for the advanced form of the disease called geographic atrophy (GA). The trials were named OAKS and DERBY and involved 1258 participants in total. Countries all over the world participated, including the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, many European countries, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand, to name just a few.1

The trials were to test the effectiveness of a drug called pegcetacoplan. This drug was used in either monthly or every-other-month injections into the eye. Yes, that’s right, injections for dry macular degeneration!1

There were slightly different results for each of OAKS and DERBY, with OAKS doing better. The Macular Disease Foundation Australia website reported that “After 12 months, pegcetacoplan reduced the growth of GA lesions by between 14% (every-other-month eye injections) and 17% (monthly eye injections) compared with no treatment (sham injections) when the data from the two studies were combined”. 1

More research needs to be done

It sounded promising to me personally, but there is so much more to read about these trials, of course. How did they choose their participants, what problems were encountered, were there unwanted side-effects, is the drug safe, and the list goes on. I’m not in a position to interpret any of the scientific information, but you can read more about the trials here.

Apellis has plans to submit its results to the US Food and Drug Administration in 2022. They are not claiming a cure of course, but they think they have found a treatment for advanced dry AMD which shows promise.2

I hope they’re right, and I hope they keep working on it, for all of us!

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