Brimonidine tartrate is a commonly used eyedrop for short- and long-term lowering of intraocular pressure. Its use has been popularized due to its effects on aqueous suppression and uveoscleral outflow, as well as the suggestion of neuroprotection. Although available with alternative preservative vehicles, brimonidine is associated with high rates of local allergy and is contraindicated in breastfeeding women, neonates, young children, and the elderly due to risk of central nervous system depression. Other topical agents with differing advantages have challenged brimonidine's role in the treatment algorithm of ocular hypertension and glaucoma. Areas covered: The authors review the development of topical alpha-adrenergic agonists, with particular attention to the currently available formulations of brimonidine tartrate. Its mechanism of action, pharmacodynamics and safety, and clinical efficacy are analyzed. Expert opinion: Despite clinical familiarity with brimonidine after two decades of use, agents that offer daily dosing, nocturnal effect, and more favorable ocular and systemic side effect profiles have ultimately led to brimonidine's adjunctive use in patients with elevated intraocular pressure or high- or low-tension glaucomas. Still, brimonidine may be advantageous in patients undergoing laser trabeculoplasty or iridotomy, in certain forms of glaucoma, or in pregnant individuals prior to the last trimester, underscoring its clinical importance.
Keywords: Alpha-agonist; aqueous suppression; brimonidine; glaucoma; neuroprotection; ocular hypertension; uveoscleral outflow.