Impact of intravitreal pharmacotherapies including antivascular endothelial growth factor and corticosteroid agents on diabetic retinopathy

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Purpose of review

Diabetic retinopathy is common and increasing in prevalence. Pharmacologic management of diabetic macular edema (DME) has improved tremendously over the last decade with the use of two families of intravitreally administered medications: antivascular endothelial growth factor-specific agents and corticosteroids. Clinical evaluation of these pharmaceuticals has demonstrated that they can have a substantial impact on diabetic retinopathy severity levels and the underlying retinal vasculature itself.

Recent findings

Phase 3 trials employing ranibizumab, aflibercept, and fluocinolone acetonide enrolling eyes with center-involving DME causing visual acuity loss have demonstrated impressive alteration of the natural history of progressive diabetic retinopathy worsening over time through blunted progression to proliferative diabetic retinopathy, improving diabetic retinopathy severity levels, and slowing progressive retinal nonperfusion, the underlying disease process central to diabetic retinopathy itself.


Accumulating data indicate that the threshold to initiate ocular-specific pharmacologic treatment for diabetic retinopathy, previously predominately limited to eyes with visual loss because of center-involved DME or proliferative diabetic retinopathy, is being lowered to earlier stages of diabetic retinopathy. Ongoing clinical trials and secondary analyses continue to further explore the impact and durability of vascular endothelial growth factor blockade and corticosteroids on modification of diabetic retinopathy and the underlying retinal vasculature itself.

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