QLT reports success with eye drug delivery, analyst skeptical

Vancouver-based QLT ($QLTI), a developer of plugs inserted at the opening of the tear ducts to deliver eye treatments, is reporting that its latanoprost punctal plug delivery system is certainly better than a stick in the eye--and better than patients self-administering eye medication--in Phase II clinical trials. According to a company release, the trial is being performed on patients with ocular hypertension and open-angle glaucoma and it showed a 24.3% reduction in intraocular pressure (IOP) after four weeks. It's a "statistically significant" change, the release said.

Patient compliance is a big problem when it comes to ophthalmic medication, with squeamishness about placing anything around the eye, not to mention the amount of medication lost with inefficient eye drops. QLT's solution is to use a specially adapted punctal plug--already used to block drainage of tears in patients with dry eye syndrome--and place it in the tear duct, or punctum. The system then automatically delivers medication over a period of time.

"Most if not all glaucoma specialists would agree that eye pressure lowering should be taken out of the patients' hands and left in the hands of the physician," Alan Robin, associate professor of ophthalmology and international health at Johns Hopkins University and clinical professor of ophthalmology, University of Maryland, said in a release. "The results of the QLT study find the L-PPDS may offer a breakthrough in the way glaucoma medication can be delivered. The results suggest that the L-PPDS may have the ability to deliver long-lasting clinically significant eye pressure lowering that is relatively well-tolerated by patients so that they do not have to worry about eye drop instillation. Adherence no longer becomes a factor in preventing the development of needless blindness."

However, Morningstar's Michael Waterhouse said that although the delivery system met Phase II endpoints, "we continue to have a high degree of skepticism over the program, and we don't currently plan to change our fair value estimate." Waterhouse cited a large loss in enrolled patients and poor retention of upper plugs for the reason behind the wariness.

- read the QLT release
- and a report in the OSN SuperSite
- skepticism here from Morningstar
- and learn more about the punctal plug delivery system, including video