Doctors suggest doing your homework before trying eye drops in place of reading glasses.
Ever feel like your arms aren’t quite long enough to be able to clearly read a menu or a book? Experts say most people over 45 are in the same boat. Now, pharmaceutical giant Allergan Inc. is marketing an eye drop it claims will “improve age-related blurry near vision,” also known as presbyopia.
“Around 45, most people have lost enough focusing to where they have to start wearing reading glasses,” explains Dr. Kurt Heitman, ophthalmologist with Southern Eye Associates in Greenville.
Approved last October by the FDA, Vuity is a slightly higher dose of pilocarpine, a generic glaucoma drug that’s been on the market for decades, according to Greenville ophthalmologist Dr. Anne Parker of the Carolina Cornea and Laser Center. As it works to lower intraocular pressure, it also constricts the pupil, which is what improves near vision in some people. “Just like on a camera, if you make the aperture smaller, it increases your depth of focus,” Heitman says. “So it gives you a little bit of help closer in.”
But the quality of near vision with Vuity isn’t the same as with reading glasses or bifocals, though it may be good enough for some people. Nonetheless, both Heitman and Parker say that while the drops can improve near vision, they don’t actually treat presbyopia—and the effect is temporary, lasting only about six hours.
“The real cause of presbyopia is the [eye] lens gets harder and stiffer as you get older and it can’t flex,” Parker explains. “Vuity does not work on that flexion. It just makes the pupil smaller.” Neither doctor uses pilocarpine anymore for glaucoma because today there are better alternatives available with fewer side effects.
The most common side effects of Vuity are a brow ache and red eyes, according to Allergan. Parker notes it may also make driving at night difficult. And it can also cause blurred vision, make switching between near and far vision difficult in some people, and, rarely, cause retinal detachment.
The cost of Vuity, which is typically not covered by insurance, is another concern. It contains 1.25 percent pilocarpine and costs about $75 for a month’s supply, while a six-month supply of generic 1 percent pilocarpine can be purchased for about $35 with a GoodRx coupon.
While more and more patients are asking about Vuity, Heitman says he hasn’t prescribed it. And though Parker doesn’t have a dog in the fight, she wants patients to have all the facts. “I’m not trying to talk people out of using it,” she says. “But I want their expectations to be appropriate to reality.”
What is presbyopia?
- Presbyopia is having trouble seeing objects that are up-close
- It happens because the lens of your eye becomes less flexible and stops focusing light correctly on the retina, making objects look blurry
- It occurs in people during middle age, usually around 45
Source: The National Eye Institute