To investigate the drug release profiles of a tacrolimus-loaded poly(D,L-lactide-co-ε-caprolactone) (PLC) microfilm, and to evaluate its efficacy on the treatment of allergic conjunctivitis using a mouse model. The in vitro and in vivo drug release profiles were first characterized. Balb/c mice were immunized with short ragweed (SRW) injection followed by re-challenges with topical SRW solution. The mice were divided into six groups (n = 12 in each): negative control (NC); positive control (PC); tacrolimus eye drops (Te); subconjunctival tacrolimus microfilm (Tm); dexamethasone eye drops (De); and tacrolimus + dexamethasone eye drops (Te+De). The mice were evaluated for 28 days by a scoring system for allergic conjunctivitis. Histopathologic and immunohistochemical staining with CD11c, CD4, and IL-4 were performed. The microfilms were biocompatible and delivered clinically sufficient dose in a sustained manner, with a steady rate of 0.212 to 0.243 μg/day in vivo. Compared to the PC groups, the Te, Tm, De, and Te+De groups significantly reduced the allergic clinical scores throughout the study period (all P < 0.01; 0.0 ± 0.0, 5.6 ± 0.9, 3.3 ± 0.9, 3.2 ± 0.9, 1.9 ± 0.4 and 1.7 ± 0.8 for the NC, PC, Tm, Te, De, and Te+De groups, respectively, at 4 weeks after treatment). The suppressed eosinophils, CD11c, CD4, and IL-4 expression were also observed in all treatment groups, with more reduction in the Te+De group. Tacrolimus-loaded microfilms display good biocompatibility and desirable sustained drug release. It was as effective as conventional tacrolimus eye drops on the treatment of allergic conjunctivitis, providing a promising clinically applicable alternative for controlling allergic disease activity, or other immune-mediated ocular diseases.

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