In Part 4 of Insight’s dry eye series, Melcare Biomedical CEO Anthony Moloney reveals how his company’s Australian-made product has proven to significantly reduce the severity of dry eye symptoms when compared with a conventional ocular lubricant – and hints there may be further therapies on the horizon.
Since its launch in 2015, homegrown dry eye treatment Optimel Manuka has firmly fixed its place in Australasia, seeing Melcare become one of the leading local manufacturers in chronic dry eye therapeutics. Now, its success is beginning to turn heads in overseas markets, with its introduction to Europe in 2018 and plans to start exporting to the US by October this year.
Available in eye drops for day-time use, or gel for night-time use, Optimel has carved a niche in the dry eye market by staking a claim in the middle-ground between lubricants and more invasive procedures.
Developed using proprietary pharmaceutical grade honey from Leptospermum spp (available in Australia and New Zealand), Optimel eyecare treatments are effective as adjunctive therapies for meibomian gland dysfunction, reducing conjunctival and lid margin redness, and improving meibomian gland secretion quality.
Mr Anthony Moloney is CEO of Queensland-based Melcare Biomedical, which manufactures Optimel products. He has been a key driver in medical honey research since 1992 and says the therapy has been well received since its introduction to the Australian market five years ago.
“There are not many therapeutic agents available for treating dry eye; only lubricants, short-course steroids or short-course antibiotics. Apart from lubricants, these aren’t long-term options,” Moloney says.
“Optimel fits in between a lubricant option and interventive dry eye treatment. It can compete directly with more serious interventions but it’s not a drug, not an antibiotic, and not steroidal. It’s in the middle-ground. And there are lower risks of complications from long-term use, unlike antibiotics or steroids.”
Moloney’s assertions have been backed in new Australian research data that has highlighted scientifically significant beneficial properties of pharmaceutical grade honey in managing dry eye, with improvements observed within 28 days.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the research determined that Australian-made Optimel Dry Eye Drops containing manuka honey are more effective for the treatment and management of dry eye compared with other forms of eye drops.
A double masked research study coordinated by researchers from UNSW Sydney randomly assigned 46 study participants living with mild, moderate or severe dry eye. Participants either received Optimel Dry Eye Drops, containing manuka honey, or a conventional ocular lubricant containing polyethylene glycol as a control.
Study lead, Dr Jacqueline Tan, says the study compared the effectiveness of both products. After 28 days, 42 study participants (21 in each group) completed the study, with researchers determining tear film evaporation rate showed a significantly greater reduction with the formulated eye honey drop, when compared with the control.
“After 28 days of treatment, tear film evaporation rate was significantly reduced, that is improved with the formulated honey eye drop compared with the control eye drop in our study. In addition, a greater reduction in dry eye symptoms was observed with the formulated eye drop in the study population,” Tan says.
Supporting Optimel’s niche position in the market, Moloney says clinical studies like the one conducted by UNSW are important for product credibility.
“UNSW initiated this study, but the first clinical work goes back to 2005 with Dr Julie Albietz. There is also a clinical study involving Optimel underway in Hong Kong at the moment, but it’s progress has been interrupted by COVID-19,” he says.
Manufactured in Queensland, made with Australian honey, Optimel is available in pharmacies and supplied to ophthalmologists and optometrists through local distributor, Designs For Vision.
The product, which has European conformity assessment certification, has begun to pick up global interest because there aren’t many alternatives on the market, Moloney says.
“Severe dry eye is debilitating, profound for someone who has suffered for many years. In her recent research, Dr Tan cites statistics from the Vision Eye Institute that the prevalence [of dry eye] increases with age, with around 50% of Australians aged 50 and older living with dry eye,” he says.
With ATRG inclusion and suitability for long term use, the benefit of Optimel over lubricants is evident in Dr Tan’s research data showing that the severity of dry eye not only reduced, but the tear film stability improved with Optimel Dry Eye Drops.
“We now meet FDA OTC marketing requirements and expect to make Optimel available to the US in the coming months. It’s an important step for us.”
Melcare is also planning to release a new product later this year.
“We’ve got a new product coming out for eyelids – an emollient cream to apply to eyelids – to help manage seborrheic dermatitis often associated with blepharitis. It uses 16.5% manuka honey and will be distributed to ophthalmologists and optometrists to prescribe.”
Moloney is hopeful it will be available on the Australian market in September.
NEXT: Clinical model puts dry eye first