Subretinal neovascularization and pathologic ocular angiogenesis are common causes of progressive, irreversible impairment of central vision, and dramatically affect quality of life. Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) therapy has improved the quality of life for many patients with age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and other ocular diseases involving neovascularization and edema. In these pathologies, the inhibition of intraocular VEGF is the only therapy that can preserve vision. Four anti-VEGF drugs are currently used to treat ocular neovascularization; pegaptanib, ranibizumab, and aflibercept have been approved for this condition, while bevacizumab can be used off-label. Anti-VEGF therapy is administered regularly for many months or years because its suspension or discontinuation may cause recurrence of neovascularization. On the other hand, VEGF is necessary for the survival of retinal and choroidal endothelial cells. Experimental studies in animal models have shown that local inhibition of VEGF causes thinning and atrophy of the choriocapillaris and degeneration of photoreceptors, primarily cones. These studies combined with clinical experience indicated that prolonged VEGF inhibition could impair retinal function. Moreover, anti-VEGF compounds can cross the blood-retina barrier, enter the systemic circulation, and inhibit serum VEGF. Since circulating VEGF protects blood vessel integrity, prolonged anti-VEGF treatment could induce thromboembolic adverse events from vascular causes such as heart attack and stroke, and even death. The ocular dosing regimen and systemic toxicity of anti-VEGF compounds are therefore central concerns. A better understanding of this topic requires knowledge of the metabolism, tissue distribution, and clearance of anti-VEGF compounds. This manuscript reviews the properties of anti-VEGF compounds following intravitreal administration.
Keywords: Aflibercept, age-related macular degeneration, anti-VEGF, bevacizumab, metabolism, pharmacokinetics, pegaptanib, ranibizumab.