A new drug that is expected to be on the market soon aims to treat dry eye by stimulating the trigeminal nerve into increasing tear production. Oyster Point Pharma's OC-01 drug aims to increase your own natural tear production using a nasal spray to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system into producing natural tears.
Stimulation of the trigeminal nerve to produce tears is not a new concept in the dry eye space, as there have been multiple medical devices that have attempted this, notably the TrueTear device as well as the iTear 100 device. What is unique is the delivery method. Unlike the medical devices, which use an electric pulse or shock to stimulate the nerve, the OC-01 drug targets the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors along the nerve and stimulates them to tell your body to make tears. If nicotinic sounds like nicotine to you, that's not a coincidence. The active ingredient in OC-01, varenicline, is used in oral medications like Chantix to help people stop smoking. It's interesting how our bodies react to substances differently depending on the delivery method.
It appears that this drug may also help with meibomian gland dysfunction, as the trigeminal nerve plays a role in both tear production, goblet cell production and meibomian gland dysfunction. I am hoping that this drug has great success in treating dry eye disease and it will be interesting to see if it is any more effective at stimulating the nerve than the iTear 100 is.
The FDA has accepted Oyster Point Pharma's New Drug Application and Oyster Point hopes that with approval the drug may be out by the end of 2021. It's not yet known to us if OC-01 will be the final name of the product or if they'll give it a nicer sounding name before launch. We'll be watching this drug closely to see if it delivers success for dry eye and if insurance companies will cover this drug.