All Press Releases for March 30, 2005

Breakthrough Treatment for AMD Related Blindness

Michael Bennett, M.D., Honolulu retinal surgeon, is able to offer the first real hope to his patients who face blindness from age-related macular degeneration.

    / - March 30, 2005 - Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the primary cause of irreversible vision loss in people over 65. As the baby boom generation balloons that age bracket, a million Americans are expected to develop AMD over the next five years.

Until last month, the best eye specialists could do for patients was to treat the symptoms or results of the disease with lasers and drug therapies. Now, using newly FDA-approved formulas, Dr. Bennett and other retinal specialists can target the cause of wet AMD and block its development.

"This treatment fills a major unmet medical need," Bennett said. "A half a million people in the developed world are blinded by macular degeneration every year. It's easy to understand why some of our patients can get excited about the potential of the new treatment."

FDA fast tracked approval because of superior early results, and the treatment was approved in six months.

"Wet AMD represents only 10 percent of the AMD we see," Dr. Bennett said, "but it's responsible for 90 percent of the vision loss in these patients." You can see why this is a significant breakthrough.

The drug will not be generally available to physicians until next week, but Dr. Bennett, a pioneer in retinal treatments and equipment breakthroughs, is among a handful of doctors nationwide that got early release of it.

Macugen, the first of this new series of drug therapies to be approved, is a pegaptanib sodium injection. It is proven to slow vision loss in those with the wet AMD.

"You can't begin to imagine the hope this provides to patients facing blindness because of this disease. Wet AMD causes the body to grow new blood vessels that aren't needed and which contribute to blindness," Bennett said. Retinal surgeons use lasers to destroy the blood vessels after they've formed.

"This drug therapy allows us to inhibit the new blood vessels from forming, and seals them up to stop or prevent leaking," which contributes to the vision loss.

Macugen works by binding itself to a protein that is involved in the formation of the unwanted new blood vessels and leakage and thus inhibits them.

The clinical studies have been impressive. Consider the lines of an eye chart. Patients suffering from this disease lose the ability to see letter after letter, line after line. Within six weeks of beginning the therapy in clinical trials patients experienced a reduced risk of vision loss.

"Results show patients hold their own, that is, stay the same on the vision chart, and actually some get letters back. This was an extremely rare occurrence before this therapy."

The treatment is expensive, Dr. Bennett said, but Medicare is expected to cover the new therapy.

There are 15 million in the United States that suffer from some form of AMD, and more than 1.2 million are experiencing active blood vessel growth and leakage associated with the wet AMD.

For information on the FDA approval:

For technical information from the therapy provider:

# # #

Contact Information

barbra Pleadwell
Hastings & Pleadwell
Honolulu, Hawaii
Voice: 808-292-3031
E-Mail: Email Us Here