QLT's delivery plugs face issues, analyst says

Tear duct plugs to deliver eye drugs face some challenges, such as keeping the tiny devices in place to release treatments. QLT ($QLTI), the Canadian eye drug specialist, has been on pushing ahead with plugs to treat glaucoma despite the hurdles. This week analysts weighed in on the prospects of the program for a Reuters article, giving the company's plugs mixed reviews.

QLT's pipeline of experimental therapies have come into focus as its standby revenue-generator Visudyne, developed with Novartis, faces an uphill battle with a host of competing therapies for wet age-related macular degeneration. The firm's punctual plugs offer a potential alternative to existing delivery of eye drop drugs, which generate more than a billions dollars annually, Reuters reports. Yet design challenges have delayed the program.

"Although the glaucoma market is attractive, it's their fourth mid-stage trial," Morningstar analyst Michael Waterhouse told Reuters

On the sunny side of things, biotech analyst Scott Henry of Roth Capital Partners told the news service that the value of developmental punctal plugs and retinoids aren't seen in the company's stock price, and the success of those programs to help boost QLT's market value. 

The plugs are placed in the tear ducts at a doctor's office, and the devices are designed to release active drug ingredients over a period of time, reducing the need for frequent eye drops and improving patient adherence. Yet when the plugs fall out, patients have to go back to their physician to have them put back in place, Reuters reported. The company plans to conduct another Phase II trial in glaucoma after showing some upbeat results in August from a mid-stage glaucoma trial, in which it tested its latest plug design, according to a press release.

In the meantime, there are other researchers working on new tear-duct plugs to release treatments. One early-stage example is Ocular Therapeutix, a Massachusetts start-up with a hydrogel-based approach to drug delivery. For the group that can figure out how to commercialize such delivery systems, a blockbuster market for eye therapies awaits.

- read the Reuters article

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