Patients diagnosed with chronic dry eye, medically known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, are treated with various prescription medications including Restasis eye drops. This brand of medication is considered as relatively expensive, and patients without drug discount cards and insurance often find this steep and unaffordable. This is one of the common questions among patients and caregivers – Is there a generic for Restasis eye drops? Following subsections offer a detailed look at the eye drops including important information about the medication.

What is chronic dry eye condition?

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca refers to the condition wherein the eyes do not produce adequate tears or the tears evaporate too quickly, resulting in possible dryness and irritation. This condition is known to cause considerable discomfort from itching and burning sensations, apart from redness, and blurred vision. Tears play a vital role in maintaining the health and lubrication of the eyes, providing moisture, and nutrients, apart from protection against infections. Without enough tears, the cornea, the clear outer surface of the eye, ends up dry and inflamed, resulting in possible damage and scarring over a period of time.

Various reasons are attributed as being responsible for the condition, including aging, hormonal changes and medications. The impact of the environment, such as exposure to wind/dry air, and patients diagnosed with autoimmune disorders are also known to end up with the condition. Treatment for the condition includes artificial tears, use of prescription eye drops, and certain lifestyle modifications including use of humidifiers. In extremely rare instances, surgery or specialized procedures may be necessary to treat chronic dry eye condition.

What is Restasis?

A prescription medication to treat the condition, Restasis eye drops contains the active ingredient cyclosporine, which works by reducing inflammation and increasing tear production in the eyes. The drops are applied directly to the eyes twice daily. It typically takes several weeks to see the full effects of Restasis, and it is long-term treatment, not to be stopped without the advice of the treating specialist.  Restasis works by increasing tear production in the eyes, and this helps to alleviate symptoms of chronic dry eye. The active ingredient cyclosporine suppresses the immune response in the eye, and this reduces inflammation, apart from promoting the production of tears. Additionally, Restasis eye drops are also used off label, to manage other eye conditions – meibomian gland dysfunction, blepharitis, and other inflammatory conditions.

The mechanism of action of the immunosuppressive drug is the inhibition of the activation and migration of T-cells, that are involved in the inflammatory response. This reduces inflammation in the eye and helps to preserve the function of the lacrimal glands, important in the production of tears. Consequently, there is an increase in the quantity and quality of tears, helping relieve the symptoms of chronic dry eye.

Side effects of Restasis

All medications come with the possibility of side effects and Restasis is no exception. Some of the commonly reported side effects include the following:

These effects are typically mild in nature and resolve naturally over time. However, it is possible that some patients may experience persistent effects and may require medical intervention.  In addition to the above, there is also the possibility of adverse undesirable effects, including the following:

Drug interactions of Restasis

The eye drops may interact with other medications in use, and this may result in reducing the effectiveness of either medication or it could cause undesirable effects. Some of the medications that may interact with Restasis include the following:

Patients are to intimate treating doctors about all medications in use, including OTC products, vitamins, and any herbal supplements, to help avoid possible drug interactions.

Alternative medications that may be used instead of Restasis

Various alternative medications are available, that may be used to treat chronic dry eye disease if the event Restasis is ineffective or not tolerated. These include the following:

#1 Lifitegrast – prescription eye drops that works by reducing inflammation in the eyes and increasing tear production.

#2 Omega-3 fatty acid supplements – OTC supplements with anti-inflammatory properties, helps reduce the symptoms of dry eye disease.

#3 Punctal plugs – small, silicone devices to keep the eyes lubricated. These are inserted into the tear ducts to prevent tears from draining away too quickly.

#4 Artificial tearsOTC artificial tears in various formulations, such as preservative-free, thick gel drops, and ointments, to lubricate the eyes and relieve the symptoms of dry eye disease.

#5 Topical steroids – prescribed to reduce inflammation in the eyes and relieve symptoms of dry eye disease, under close supervision of an eye specialist.

The treating specialist is best placed to determine the most effective treatment based on the severity of the symptoms, the underlying causes, and other factors including the presence of other eye/systemic conditions.

Is there a generic for Restasis eye drops?

It is time to conclude with an answer to the above question. There is a generic version of Restasis eye drops – cyclosporine ophthalmic 0.05%, available as 30 single use vials or 60 single use vials. Generic versions are available in the same strengths as the branded eye drops and are effective in treating the same conditions. The price may vary, depending on the pharmacy and location. Patients are advised to discuss the most suitable generic version of Restasis with the healthcare provider.

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