Which medications are used in the treatment of primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG)?

Updated: Mar 16, 2020
  • Author: Kristin Schmid Biggerstaff, MD; Chief Editor: Inci Irak Dersu, MD, MPH  more...
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Major drug classes for medical treatment of POAG include the following: alpha-agonists, beta-blockers, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, miotic agents, prostaglandin analogs, and rho kinase inhibitors.

Various classes of glaucoma medications, including adenosine analogs and nitric oxide–donating drops that aim at increasing trabecular outflow, are getting closer to FDA approval.

Medical marijuana is not indicated for glaucoma treatment, as marijuana lowers IOP minimally and its duration of action is very short. In the future, topical derivatives that affect cannabinoid M receptors governing aqueous dynamics may be effective, but this is still under early investigation.

The other drug classes mentioned above have much more documented duration of action and efficacy without the systemic cannabinoid adverse effects. Furthermore, other options to treat ocular pain from end-stage glaucoma have arisen (eg, trans-scleral or endoscopic cyclophotocoagulation, absolute alcohol [ethanol] or chlorpromazine retrobulbar injections), which directly and more effectively alleviate the problem than in the past when marijuana was used for eye pain from end-stage glaucoma.

Legal justification of glaucoma as an indication for systemic medical marijuana use is scientifically and medically improper, as well as unethical; education of the public and legislators is needed on this subject.

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