Made from Beauvaria nivea, a soil fungus, the immune-system-suppressing drug cyclosporine was developed to prevent rejection in organ transplant patients. The cyclosporine eye drop formula is used to treat keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or KCS, in dogs. Nearly 40 per cent of dogs suffering from eye problems have KCS. Cocker spaniels, Yorkies, Shih Tzus and bulldogs are among the breeds most frequently affected. Also known as dry eye, KCS occurs when an animal's immune system suppresses tear production. The lack of tears causes irritation, browning of the cornea and thick discharge. If untreated, it can result in blindness.
Early research of cyclosporine for ophthalmic use in dogs occurred at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. They patented three products and licensed the patents for veterinary use to KB Visions, who, in turn, sub-licensed the rights exclusively to Schering-Plough. Schering-Plough developed the 0.2 per cent ophthalmic ointment Optimmune. When Optimmune became scarce in 2001 because the FDA had cited one of Schering-Plough's factories, KB began licensing the ointment's production to compounding pharmacies. Many veterinarians then began making their own cyclosporine eye drops from oral cyclosporine and vegetable oil. KB has since licensed production of the eye drops to a group of compounding pharmacies across the U.S. They're the drops' only legal suppliers.
According to Dr. Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipAVM, cyclosporine ointment has an 85 per cent success rate in dogs with KCS. Cyclosporine is now also used to treat pannus. lts low absorption rate makes it less dangerous to dogs than other immunosupressive drugs.
Follow your veterinarian's dosing instructions exactly. If you're administering more than one ophthalmic medication, wait five minutes between each to prevent the later ones from washing out the earlier ones. Apply the drops to the dog's lower eyelid sac. Don't let the dropper touch the eye itself, or you'll contaminate the drops. Wash your hands after administering the medication to avoid absorbing the drug. Dogs receiving cyclosporine for KCS will need it for the remainder of their lives.
Dr. Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipAVM, recommends that after three weeks your vet perform a tear test to check your dog's progress. He'll adjust the dosage depending on the cyclosporine's effectiveness.
Finding Cyclosporine Eyedrops
According to the KB Visions website, more than 60 U.S. compounding pharmacies are licensed to make cyclosporine eye drops for dogs. Twenty states have no licensed pharmacies. Order the drops using the pharmacies' toll-free numbers or websites.
Cyclosporine can delay the healing of corneal ulcers. Ensure your dog won't miss any doses by ordering refills well in advance.