List of current therapies
The FDA has approved an artificial implant, called Argus 11, to restore some sight to people with retinitis pigmentosa. A special pair of glasses is outfitted with a video camera and a video processing unit that sends signals to a wireless receiver implanted in the eye. “To restore vision, signals from the camera are sent to the retina, where they travel to the optic nerve in the brain.
A presentation at the American Academy of Ophthalmology meeting highlights a study showing that people with moderate vision loss could increase their reading speed by 15 words per minute by using a digital tablet with a back lit screen. This improves contrast sensitivity. “Patients with the poorest vision- defined as 20/40 or worse in both eyes- showed the most improvement in speed when using an iPad or Kindle, compared with print.” The study was conducted at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.
UC Davis Medical Center surgeons implanted a telescope in the eye of a patient with end-stage AMD. The device was FDA approved in 2010. The recipient is the first of 50 individuals scheduled to receive the implant. Results were encouraging. The patient said “I can see better than ever now. Colors are more vibrant, beautiful and natural, and I can read large print with my glasses. I haven’t been able to read for the past seven years.” The implant is smaller than a pea.
The FDA approved injection Eylea (afilbercept), formerly called VEGF Trap-Eye, has been shown to be as effective as Lucentis for treatment of AMD, according to a 96-week study of 2,412 patients, conducted by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. After a 3 month period of once a month dosing, Eylea can be given every 8 weeks, resulting in half as many injections as Lucentis. Sales have climbed considerably.
An important step in treating AMD and preventing further deterioration is tracking its progress. A new app from iTunes allows iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users to download the free app SightBook. It monitors vision changes by testing the users visual acuity, color vision and contrast sensitivity. Audio instructions accompany each test. The results are then sent to the patient’s ophthalmologist. He must be a member of the DigiSight team. Registration can be completed on the app or at digisight.net.
The Apple iPhone has an app (app = application, or a small program), LookTel Recognizer, available in the iTunes App Store, that allows visually impaired users to recognize items and surroundings. You point the iPhone camera and listen to the phone. The phone recognizes and identifies the object or location. There is no need to hold the camera still or take a photo.
Three successful cases of treatment with an oral "nutriceutical" were reported at the annual Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology meeting in Florida. These patients had exhausted all other treatments, “making them candidates for this rescue medicine.”
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A number of developments offer hope for future treatment of macular degeneration. The FDA granted fast track designation for squalamine eye drops for the treatment of wet AMD.
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Congress has appropriated $12 million in funding to support the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). Grants were given to organizations that will offer free tax preparation services to the elderly and disabled. To qualify, your income should be below $50,000. The toll free number for locations on tax counseling and income tax assistance is 800-906-9887.
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A statement issued on February 14th, by the FDA, warns patients and health professionals that a counterfeit version of Avastin 400 mg may have filtered down to some medical practices in the United States. The counterfeit version does not contain the medicine’s active ingredient, bevcizumab, which is needed for AMD therapy. The FDA informs doctors that the counterfeit version has a Roche label, and batch numbers and expiration dates inconsistent with Genetech’s approved format.