Published Date: Feb 2024


EYLEA – A Novel Drug for Retinal Diseases

EYLEA (Aflibercept) is a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Bayer for the treatment of various retinal diseases. It was approved by the US FDA in 2011 for treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and has since gained approval for other retinal conditions like diabetic macular edema (DME), macular edema following retinal vein occlusion (RVO) and diabetic retinopathy (DR). EYLEA has emerged as a frontline drug owing to its superior efficacy compared to other anti-VEGF agents like Lucentis and Avastin. Let’s take a detailed look at EYLEA and its impact on global management of retinal diseases.

Mechanism of Action and Pharmacological Profile

VEGF plays a key role in formation of new abnormal blood vessels in retinal diseases by stimulating angiogenesis. EYLEA is a fusion protein that binds all forms of VEGF-A and placental growth factor (PlGF), two major pro-angiogenic factors. It has higher binding affinity to VEGF compared to ranibizumab and bevacizumab. In pre-clinical studies, aflibercept demonstrated longer intravitreal half-life of 5.3 days compared to 2.88 days for ranibizumab and 9.8 days for bevacizumab. This longer duration of action allows EYLEA to be administered every 4-8 weeks, reducing treatment burden compared to monthly injections needed with ranibizumab and bevacizumab.

Clinical Efficacy in Major Retinal Diseases

Numerous phase III clinical trials established EYLEA as a highly efficacious treatment for multiple retinal conditions:

  • Wet AMD: VIEW 1 and VIEW 2 trials showed EYLEA was superior to laser photocoagulation and as effective as monthly ranibizumab in improving visual acuity at 2 years.
  • DME: VIVID-DME and VISTA-DME trials demonstrated non-inferiority of EYLEA over laser photocoagulation and superiority over monthly ranibizumab and bevacizumab in achieving significant vision gains.
  • RVO: GALILEO and COPERNICUS trials found EYLEA to be superior to sham injections and as effective as ranibizumab in improving visual outcomes at 6 months in macular edema due to central and branch RVO.
  • Proliferative DR: VIVID-DR trial showed EYLEA injections every 4 weeks resulted in significant vision improvement compared to laser panretinal photocoagulation at 24 weeks.

Real-world Evidence Supports Clinical Studies

Large observational studies provided real-world evidence of EYLEA's efficacy, safety and cost-effectiveness in retinal diseases. Data from LUMINOUS study on over 6000 patients found higher visual acuity gains, less treatment burden and resource use with EYLEA similar to pivotal trials. UK-based IRIS registry reported comparable favorable outcomes for wet AMD and DR with EYLEA to randomized clinical trials.

Global Impact and Uptake of EYLEA

By 2017, EYLEA penetrated over 50% of the anti-VEGF market in the US and EU. It gained faster uptake rates compared to older anti-VEGF drugs. Japan approved EYLEA in 2012 making it the first anti-VEGF injection for wet AMD. South Korea approved rapid reimbursement of EYLEA for multiple indications. Several Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American countries also added EYLEA to their retinal disease treatment guidelines citing robust data. Besides the West, EYLEA is gaining prominence in access projects across India, China and other emerging markets.

Narrowing Therapy Gap in Underserved Populations

High cost is a major barrier in treating retinal diseases, especially in developing nations. Regeneron undertakes various patient assistance programs to increase EYLEA access worldwide. It partnered with organizations like International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) to provide EYLEA at reduced prices in Latin America, Africa and Asia to over 2 million patients so far through Sankara Netralaya Eye Hospital chain in India. Such initiatives aid in narrowing the therapy gap between urban and rural populations, allowing EYLEA to benefit more patients globally.

Future Potential Beyond Retinal Diseases

Given its potent anti-angiogenic properties across isoforms of VEGF-A and PlGF, clinical studies are exploring EYLEA's therapeutic potential in oncology and other non-retinal diseases. Phase I/II trials showed preliminary efficacy of EYLEA monotherapy or combinations in advanced solid tumors. Results from ongoing phase III cancer trials are awaited. EYLEA may emerge as a widespread anti-VEGF treatment modality if proven effective for additional indications beyond ophthalmology.

In conclusion, EYLEA has revolutionized the management of major retinal diseases by demonstrating clear superiority over previous standards of care in clinical trials and real-world evidence. Its approval worldwide has significantly improved visual outcomes for millions affected by wet AMD, DME, RVO and DR. Expanding access programs aim to address the therapy gap especially in developing nations. EYLEA's future potential beyond ophthalmology could make it a blockbuster anti-angiogenic agent.