Purpose: To evaluate the efficacy and primary safety of treatment with artesunate in reducing ocular neovascularization in humans. Methods: Five patients with corneal, iris, and retinal neovascularization and no light perception were treated with intravitreal injections of artesunate 80 μg. Visual acuity, anterior segment photography, fundus fluorescein angiography, and optical coherence tomography were used to evaluate efficacy, while intraocular pressure (IOP) and lens opacity degree were employed to evaluate safety. The primary endpoint was attenuation of neovascularization as determined at 24 weeks, with the last posttreatment follow-up at 52 weeks. Results: Corneal and iris neovascularization, which were secondary to fundus ischemic diseases and retinal neovascularization in all 5 patients, were attenuated after 1 or 2 injections by the 52-week follow-up. Retinal neovascularization was also attenuated, and papilledema was alleviated. The average IOP fell from 25.5 mmHg to 17.66 mmHg. Conclusions: This pilot study determined that intravitreal artesunate injection is efficacious for reducing corneal, iris, and retinal neovascularization. These results indicate that this drug may be a novel alternative to the currently popular antivascular endothelial growth factor drugs used to suppress ocular neovascularization and improve visual function.
Keywords: artesunate; cornea; iris; neovascularization; retina.