In developing a drug delivery strategy, issues of absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination must be considered. The eye presents unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to the delivery of pharmaceuticals, and is most accessible to the application of topical medications. While absorption by this route is inefficient, there are few side effects. While it has been assumed that topically applied drugs penetrated into the intraocular environment through the cornea, this is currently being reassessed. More recent investigations have shown that the conjunctival route of entry plays an important role in the penetration of drugs into the anterior segment. Furthermore, topically applied drugs have been shown to have access to the sclera from the conjunctiva. As such, it is conceivable that such drugs could find their way to the posterior segment. Data suggest that the sclera is readily permeable to even large molecular weight compounds (∼150 kD). The recent finding that topically applied nepafenac inhibited choroidal and retinal neovascularization by decreasing the production of VEGF, as well as our data showing that even a large molecular weight peptide like insulin can accumulate in the retina and optic nerve after topical application, supports the contention that topically applied drugs can not only reach the posterior segment, but that they can also be therapeutic. Finally, the implications of our findings that topically applied insulin also accumulates in the contralateral eye as well as in the central nervous system are discussed.
Keywords: topical ocular drug delivery, posterior segment disease, topical medications, intraocular environment, nepafenac, retinal neovascularization
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