A pterygium, or plural pterygia, is a wing-shaped overgrowth of white conjunctival tissue that grows over the surface of the cornea. As one of the cornea’s roles is to provide a transparent surface for light to pass through the eye, the opaque nature of the pterygium beginning to cover this tissue can cause problems not only with irritation and dry eye but also vision and changes to prescription. Some patients may also not like the appearance of a pterygium.

Although the presence of a pterygium itself is benign, for the reasons listed above many patients choose to have the pterygium removed. Up until now, the only option has been surgery, with early techniques suffering from recurrence rates up to 69%. However, Dr. Franz Michel, a world-renowned pterygium surgeon with offices in Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks, and Oxnard, has a recurrence rate of less than one percent – the best rate in the world.

Although understanding of pterygia recurrence and subsequent development of removal techniques have progressed with significant improvement to success rates, researchers are now working on a novel non-surgical treatment for bothersome pterygia.


Could eye drops be the answer?

In October 2018, a pharmaceutical company named Allgenesis Biotherapeutics Inc. began a clinical trial on a therapeutic eye drop known only as AG-86893 in the treatment of redness (hyperemia) and growth of pterygia. The trial was named the SURPH study (A Study of the Response to AG-86893 in Patients with Pterygium Hyperemia), a nod to the colloquial name for pterygia, surfer’s eye. The study involved three treatment groups:

  • Placebo group – receiving one drop of non-medicated solution to the treatment eye 3 times a day for 28 days
  • 0.1% AG-86893 group – receiving one drop of 0.1% concentration medication to the treatment eye 3 times a day for 28 days
  • 0.3% AG-86893 group – receiving one drop of 0.3% concentration medication to the treatment eye 3 times a day for 28 days

In addition to assessing the effectiveness of both the 0.1% and 0.3% concentrations of AG-86893, examiners also noted the safety of the medication, such as the occurrence of adverse events compared to the placebo eye drop.

Although the study concluded in October 2019, results are yet to be released. Stay tuned to this space for further updates on the clinical trial.