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Self-medicating contact lenses can stop allergic reactions before they start

Acuvue Theravision with Ketotifen—a winner of Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas Awards—release an antihistamine directly into the eye, providing relief for allergy sufferers.

Self-medicating contact lenses can stop allergic reactions before they start
[Photos: Johnson & Johnson Vision]

Whether irritated by pollen or dog hair, ocular allergy sufferers are all too familiar with inflamed eyes and the painful routine of rubbing, reddening, and soreness. When contact-lens wearers get those allergies—and 40% do—a quick rub can risk jogging the lenses, hampering vision, or even worse, injuring an eye. “We call it the itch-rub cycle,” says Brian Pall, an optometrist and director of global clinical science at Johnson & Johnson Vision, who has focused on preventing the itch in the first place.

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For more than a decade, his team has been developing lenses that release an antihistamine directly into the eye. The drug ketotifen is integrated with the polymer of the Acuvue Theravision lens. When you pop your contact in, the liquid rapidly diffuses from the lens into your eye tissue. That initial burst of fluid, felt with a slight tingle, is followed by more sustained delivery over the following hours. The lenses are the winner of the wellness category of Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas Awards.

[Illustration: Israel G. Vargas]
Currently available in Canada and Japan, the lenses received FDA approval in February and are now, Pall says, making their way toward U.S. consumers. Pall hopes that the science can precipitate similar delivery methods for other eye treatments, reducing the reliance on manual droppers. “People hate eye drops,” he says, because they’re easy to misfire, and even easier to forget at home, leading to agony on balmy summer days. “I believe [this] is really going to have a huge impact on quality of life.”

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