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FDA Should Approve Antibiotic for Common Dry Eye Disease, Researchers

Update Date: Dec 25, 2013 02:33 PM EST

Common antibiotics may treat dry eye disease, according to a new study.

While there is currently no FDA-approved treatment for Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), which affects millions of Americans, researchers discovered that azithromycin helps stimulate the function of human meibomian gland epithelial cells.

Researchers said the findings are very important because topical azithromycin is the most commonly prescribed MGD treatment in the USA. However, its use is 'off-label,' which means the drug's efficacy has not yet been evaluated and approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the condition.

Researchers said that the drug may suppress the MGD-associated conjunctival inflammation (i.e. posterior blepharitis) and growth of lid bacteria.

"We hypothesized that azithromycin could act directly on human meibomian gland epithelial cells to stimulate their differentiation, enhance the quality and quantity of their lipid production, and promote their holocrine secretion. Our results support this hypothesis," senior author David A. Sullivan, Ph.D., Senior Scientist and Margaret S. Sinon Scholar in Ocular Surface Research, Schepens Eye Research Institute and Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, said in a news release.

Researchers said that the latest findings could help FDA approve azithromycin as an 'on-label' treatment of MGD and other similar evaporative dry eye disease.

The findings are published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

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