Dr Heiko Philippin carrying out Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) on a patient.

Glaucoma treatment trial

Country: Tanzania
Category: Saving sight

A pioneering treatment trial in Tanzania could significantly improve the treatment of glaucoma across Sub-Saharan Africa. Results of the trial were published in Lancet Global Health in October 2021..

The eye condition glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in adults worldwide. Rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are the highest for any world region and are predicted to nearly double by 2040.

CBM eye specialist Dr Heiko Philippin led the trial at our partner hospital Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) in Northern Tanzania, which sees 2,000 patients with glaucoma each year. Dr Philippin and the team trialled a treatment called Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT). SLT has been in use in the UK for several years, but this is the first time it is being trialled in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Currently, eye drops are the main treatment used to treat Glaucoma in Tanzania, but this requires frequent return visits to hospital. For many patients who live in rural locations, travelling to hospital is difficult and they are not able to return for the continued sight-saving treatment.

The study was conducted through a research partnership between Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) in Moshi, northern Tanzania and the International Centre for Eye Health (ICEH) and was funded by CBM and Seeing is Believing (a collaboration between Standard Chartered Bank and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, which concluded in 2020). It shows that laser treatment could be significantly more effective than eye drops in managing glaucoma, and can be affordable in low-income settings. 

This study is the first randomized controlled trial into the use of the laser treatment Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) for patients with advanced glaucoma in Sub-Saharan Africa. It found that SLT, already widely used in high-income countries, successfully reduced eye pressure for significantly more patients in Tanzania in comparison to the standard treatment of timolol eye drops. 

Read more about the results of the glaucoma trial (open link in new tab). 

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