Therapeutic Focus

Dry Eye and Sjögren syndrome: Tens of millions of patients worldwide suffer from dry eye. It is considered to be the second most frequent eye condition in the developed world after conjunctivitis and is estimated at 20% of the global ophthalmology market. There are two main causes: decreased secretion of tears by the lacrimal (tear-producing) glands and loss of tears due to excess evaporation. Both can lead to ocular surface discomfort, often described as feelings of dryness, burning, a sandy/gritty sensation, or itchiness. Visual fatigue, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision are also characteristic of dry eye. In people with dry eye, thin spots in the tear film may appear and the tears no longer adequately protect and support the health of ocular surface tissues. Current treatment relies on an almost permanent use of artificial tears and on punctual use of immunosuppressant drugs like cyclosporine or corticosteroids although their use is limited as they induce a rise in ocular pressure. The market for dry eye is estimated to reach CHF 2 billion in 2016.

One of the causes of dry eye is associated with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease with leading clinical manifestations of dry eye, dry mouth and articular pains and discomfort. For Sjögren’s syndrome patients, inflammation of tear-secreting glands reduces tear production, resulting in chronic dry eye. In addition, changes in the composition of tears contribute to the symptom aggravation. For this reason dry eye associated with Sjogren’s syndrome represents a very good clinical model of dry eye as this patient population is much more homogeneous than the dry eye-suffering general population and the trial will enrolled much less patients. No treatment is available for more sustainable control of dry eye associated with Sjogren’s syndrome and the market for this indication is estimated to reach above CHF300 million in 2014.