J&J's allergy-fighting contact lens nets first approval in Japan, allowing wearers to skip eye drops

Johnson & Johnson Vision has received its first global approval for a contact lens infused with an antihistamine, designed to help curb the itchiness that comes with eye allergies.

Japan gave the green light to the company’s Acuvue Theravision lenses with ketoifen—daily, disposable contacts that contain the same active ingredient used in eye drops to offer relief from pollen, ragweed and grass, or animal hair and dander.

According to J&J, eight out of 10 regular contact wearers said they feel frustrated when allergy season comes along, with itchiness interfering with their vision while the lenses themselves make it difficult to rub their eyes.

Representing a new category of antihistamine-eluting lenses, the Theravision contacts cleared clinical studies in early 2019.

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By combining the material used for many of Acuvue’s soft contacts, etafilcon A, with a dose of ketotifen, J&J was able to significantly reduce average itching scores among trial participants—with relief reported after the first 15 minutes and for up to 12 hours of wear. 

“We’re proud to bring forward a new contact lens that simultaneously provides vision correction and relief of allergic eye itch, without the need for allergy eye drops,” said Brian Pall, director of clinical science for Johnson & Johnson Vision Care.

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare cleared the lenses for patients with allergic conjunctivitis, and J&J said it is currently working with regulatory authorities worldwide to secure additional approvals.

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In addition, earlier this month the company introduced a new multifocal Acuvue lens for people with farsightedness. 

The Oasys two-week contacts, available in the U.S. and Canada, are designed to match the size of the wearer’s pupils, which may change as people grow older, to help focus optical power where it’s most effective.