man putting eye drops in his bloodshot red eyes

If you watch television chances are pretty good that you have seen commercials for Restasis for Dry Eyes. In one you are asked: “Do you use artificial tears often?” In another you are told by the beautiful TV patient, “But when my eye doctor said I have a disease that got my attention. ‘You have a disease called chronic dry eye caused by reduced tear production due to inflammation. I do too. I use Restasis’…”

We bet that when people watching these ads they hear that word disease and begin to worry. It sounds ominous. This person noted a side effect of Restasis for dry eyes not mentioned in the TV commercial:

Q. I have been bothered with dry eyes for a number of years. Recently I asked my optometrist if I could use Restasis for dry eyes, which I’d seen advertised on TV. He wrote the prescription and I’ve been using it for 10 weeks, one drop in each eye twice a day.

Quite honestly, I’ve noticed no improvement in the dry eye problem, but there is a disturbing side effect: blurred vision, which is getting worse by the day. Because of the blurred vision I’ve decided to stop using Restasis.

A. Restasis contains cyclosporine, an immunosuppressing drug. It was first approved in 1983 to keep people from rejecting transplanted organs. The eye drops are modestly effective at increasing tear production.

How Effective is Restasis for Dry Eyes?

The FDA reports the following results from clinical trials:

“Four multicenter, randomized, adequate and well-controlled clinical studies were performed in approximately 1,200 patients with moderate to severe keratoconjunctivitis sicca. RESTASIS® demonstrated statistically significant increases in Schirmer wetting of 10 mm versus vehicle at six months in patients whose tear production was presumed to be suppressed due to ocular inflammation. This effect was seen in approximately 15% of RESTASIS® ophthalmic emulsion-treated patients versus approximately 5% of vehicle-treated patients.”

We often find that such language is not terribly helpful. In trying to interpret the FDA’s summary, we conclude that in patients with chronic dry eye brought on by inflammation, six months of Restasis helped about 15% of them. That was 10% better than placebo (“vehicle-treated patients” got no active drug). How good is that? We leave it up to you to decide.

Restasis Side Effects:

According to the FDA, the most common complaint is a burning sensation (17%). Other adverse reactions include blurred vision, stinging, itching, pain, discharge and a feeling that something is stuck in the eye.

Your eye doctor needs to know that you are having difficulty with Restasis. There are other approaches to dry eye syndrome.

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  1. Carol
    Kelowna Bc

    I have just had Restasis prescribed but am hesitant to start any prescription regimen, especially one this expensive, that I am advised will not be effective befor maybe three months and that I will/should use for rest of my life.

  2. Kathy
    Cary, NC

    I gave up my contacts due to my dry eye problem. It was so bad that when I went to bed at night, my eyes felt like there was sand under my eyelids and in the morning I couldn’t open my eyes without using my fingers to “un-stick” my eye lids from my eyeballs. My eye doctor gave me samples of a gel to try, but it didn’t last through the night.

    While searching the internet I saw someone’s suggestion to try GenTeal lubricant eye gel. I got a tube of the “severe” formula and put a large drop in each eye before going to bed. It worked great for me, no more sandy feeling, no more having to manually open my eyes in the morning and I can wear my contacts all day now. It seemed a little expensive but a tube has lasted me over 6 months, and it works for me, so worth it.

  3. Jillian

    What about a drop of mineral oil mixed with warm water one or more times a day in freshly cleaned eyes? Could it possibly hurt (as opposed to putting something like Restasis in there)? Isn’t the goal just to keep the eyes a little more moist? Is dry eye even curable?

  4. Marie

    I would very much like to stop Restasis. From the above statements it seems like a total waste of money. I also take Alaway and Refresh advanced for dry eyes. I am housebound and cannot get out to the eye doctor and want to try other methods. At one time I used Johnsons Baby shampoo to cleanse my eyes in the morning – I remember that it worked. I will stop gradually with the Restasis and the others.

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