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U.S. FDA panel backs Aerie's glaucoma drug Rhopressa

(Adds comment from panelist, context)

Oct 13 (Reuters) - Aerie Pharmaceuticals Inc's experimental glaucoma treatment should be approved, an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Friday, after it found the benefits outweigh the risks.

The panel voted 9-1 in favor of the drug, Rhopressa, the first in a new class of treatments for glaucoma, an eye condition that is the second-leading cause of blindness in the world. It affects about 2.7 million people in the United States.

The FDA is not obliged to follow the recommendations of its advisory panels but typically does.

Dr Young Kwon, a professor in the ophthalmology department at the University of Iowa who sat on the FDA panel, said Rhopressa represents "a major advance in glaucoma therapy."

Glaucoma treatments work by lowering pressure inside the eye, which in turn helps prevent glaucoma. The most commonly prescribed treatments include Pfizer Inc's Xalatan, known generically as latanoprost, Novartis AG's Travatan and Allergan Plc's Lumigan.

Rhopressa also lowers eye pressure but does so in a different way, by targeting the trabecular meshwork, the main drain through which fluid flows out of the eye.

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Rosalba O'Brien)