Article Date: 4/1/2008

AOA Forms National Commission on Vision and Health

AOA Forms National Commission on Vision and Health


■ The American Optometric Association (AOA) has created a National Commission on Vision and Health (NCVH) to develop the association's position on national healthcare issues, particularly as they relate to vision, says the AOA's president Kevin L. Alexander.

"We [the AOA] want healthcare policy makers to view optometry as the true healthcare profession that it is, instead of simply as a group of practitioners who, for instance, testify on a piece of legislation so a healthcare plan will include them. In other words, we want to dispel the notion that the AOA is a parochial advocate," he says.

"For example, if there's a bill before Congress to fund smoking cessation programs, we want to have the opportunity to weigh in on that, as smoking has an impact on the eyes. The National Commission on Vision and Health would seek to ensure the AOA gets such an opportunity."

The 12-member Committee is comprised of optometrists, pharmacists, public-health professionals and former employees of health insurance companies.

"This diverse group of healthcare professionals will help the AOA decide which national healthcare issues we want to weigh in on and how, specifically, to effectively deliver our views to the powers that be, whether that be in the form of white papers, expert testimony, etc.," says Dr. Alexander. "The bottom line is that when we're presenting our view on a specific healthcare issue, we want to be armed with high-quality referenced materials and experts that can effectively back-up our views. I'm not saying our testimony in the past hasn't been good, I'm just saying that the credibility of references and experts would send the message to healthcare policy members that our positions do not revolve around advocating just for the inclusion of optometric services, for example."

Dr. Alexander says the idea to form the Commission was born out of several years of being involved in advocacy — he's worked on many scope-of-practice bills — and wishing there was an arm of the profession that could provide him with legitimate referenced information or expert testimony on broad healthcare issues.

The National Commission on Vision and Health, with Barry Barresi,-O.D., Ph. D. as the founding chair, is scheduled to have its first meeting this month, says Dr. Alexander. As Dr. Barresi assumes his duties as executive director of the AOA this summer, Edwin C. Marshall, O.D., will chair the NCVH going forward.

Invention Shocks Retinal Cells Into Life


■ ScyFIX, a multi-national company based in Minneapolis, has created a hand-held device that it says can restore vision, via electrical stimulation, in individuals who have the dry form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma. Specifically, the company says the instrument stimulates the release of retinal neuroprotective factors (rescuing optic nerve, retinal interneuron and photoreceptor cells from apoptosis), raises adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis, improves microvascular circulation in retinal cells and re-polarizes interneurons (reducing the number of misfiring and non-firing retinal cells).

Named the ScyFIX MCN (MicroCurrent Neuromodulation) 650, the device is roughly eight inches long, four-inches wide and one-inch thick and has electrodes, or lead wires, affixed to four sticky pads.

"The patient places a pad on each eyelid and the corresponding pad to the top of each of his hands for a 20-minute therapy session when he wakes in the morning and just before he goes to sleep at night," explains Thomas W. Harold, the device's inventor and ScyFIX founder and chief executive officer.

"The pad on top of each corresponding hand completes the circuit for each eye. The patient then uses the device to control the level of the electrical current, based on how it feels — a kind of tingling — on their eyes, hands, face or teeth."

In the future, after more learning, ScyFIX will likely have different therapy protocols for how often and how long patients should use the device, but for now, Mr. Harold says, the company knows that twice per day provides the best results.

The ScyFIX CEO says he thought of the idea about six years ago, during a business meeting, where one of his colleagues said, "You know, I hear that electricity can cure blindness." Intrigued, Mr. Harold, a former executive at Pillsbury, says he began conducting some research and discovered that anecdotal evidence existed for what his friend had said, though no one had taken it out of the lab (visit

"Right now, we're in dialogue with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerning the results of the FDA-sanctioned trials we conducted for the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa, dry AMD and open-angle glaucoma," says Mr. Harold. "While I can't comment specifically on our FDA-trial results, I can tell you that our experience over the past five years in countries outside the United States has revealed that within days and weeks of using our predecessor devices, many patients have said they're now able to see the faces of their family members again, they can thread needles, colors now appear more vibrant, and one retinitis-pigmentosa patient has reported that his vertical fields have opened up, enabling him to walk down the stairs unaided."

For more information on ScyFIX, visit


AMO Launches a New OTC Tear

Advanced Medical Optics (AMO) recently launched over-the-counter (OTC) blink Tears lubricating eye-drops. The new drop demonstrates a number of benefits, including long-retention times, AMO says.
The drop has a moisture retention time of greater than 60 minutes. The drop also improves tear-film stability, as it thickens when the eye is open and thins when the eye blinks, the company says.
During the second half of 2008, AMO plans to launch blink Tears in Europe.

New Standards for CE


■ The Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry (ARBO) has announced it will develop new standards for commercial support of Council on Optometric Practitioner Education (COPE)-approved continuing education, which will provide a "clear direction to both providers and industry," says the association.

The new standards wouldn't allow lecturers (or authors) to receive COPE approval for presentations that promote products, instruments or devices. The standards require the lecturer, not a company, to submit the course. In addition, an administrator, not a supporting company, must pay the lecturer. The lecturer must also include disclosure that addresses independence in preparing the course, conflicts of interest and appropriate use of commercial support and promotion. The lecturer must ensure that the content and format is without commercial bias and disclose any potential commercial bias. ARBO anticipates that full compliance required by July 1, 2009.

CIBA Vision Introduces CL

CIBA Vision has introduced AIR OPTIX for Astigmatism, a silicone-hydrogel monthly replacement contact lens FDA-approved for daily wear and up to six nights of extended wear. Features include: a Dk/t of 108 @ -3.00D, a 14.5mm diameter and a 8.7mm base curve. Parameters are from plano to -6.00D (in 0.25D steps), with cylinder powers of -0.75 and -1.25 and axes around-the-clock in 10° steps. A parameter expansion is forthcoming.


Program For Rookie O.D.s

The First Practice Academy (FPA), from CIBA Vision and Essilor of America, is an AOA-endorsed training program for independent O.D.s who've been in private practice for three years or less. Specifically, FPA will provide new optometric business owners with strategies and tools to enhance their patients' experience, achieve financial success and a competitive advantage, according to a CIBA Vision press release. FPA kicks off June 9 and 10 in Chicago. Future events will be held in Atlanta and Dallas. Contact your CIBA Vision or Essilor of America sales representative for further information.

• Early-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may double the risk of cardiovascular mortality through the next 10 years, among patients younger than age 75, after controlling for traditional cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, according to a study in February's British Journal of Ophthalmology.
• A one-hour application of topical gatifloxacin appears to be as effective as a one-day application in eliminating conjunctival bacteria flora in patients undergoing intraocular surgery, finds an abstract (control # 07-A-6026) presented at this month's Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) annual meeting.
• The current fasting plasma glucose cutoff of 7.0mmol/L used to diagnose diabetes may not accurately identify retinopathy-and non-retinopathy patients, says a study in March's The Lancet.
Alimera Sciences has partnered with Emory University to research oxidative stress management — the decrease of reactive oxygen species (ROS) — as a treatment for eye diseases.
Bausch & Lomb and CrystalGenomics Inc., a South Korean specialized drug discovery and development firm, have announced a joint research and development agreement to investigate potential new treatments for inflammatory eye diseases, such as dry eye.
Macrophage 2 appears to promote abnormal ocular blood vessel growth, which leads to AMD, says a study in November's Journal of Molecular Biology.
• Wet AMD patients who took Bromfenac sodium ophthalmic solution 0.09% (Xibrom, Ista Pharmaceuticals, Inc.) twice daily in conjunction with ranibizumab injection (Lucentis, Genentech, Inc.) for six months required less injections than Wet AMD patients who used ranibizumab alone, according to Poster #A593, presented by Ista Pharmaceuticals at this month's ARVO annual meeting.
• Topical (drops) Alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid found in food) (ALA) significantly reduced corneal fluorescein staining and was linked with a significant reduction in the number of corneal CD11b(+) cells, the expression of corneal IL-1alpha and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha and conjunctival TNF-alpha in the eyes of dry-eye induced mice, according to a study in February's Archives of Ophthalmology.
Hydroxytyrosol (HTS), a polyphenol plentiful in olive oil, may act as a mitochondrial-targeting antioxidant nutrient that, when consumed, may be effective in decreasing and/or precluding cigarette-smoke induced- or age-related retinal pigment epithelial degeneration, such as AMD, says a study in the October's Journal of Neurochemistry.
Women who consume high amounts of lutein/zeaxanthin and vitamin E may reduce their risk of cataract, regardless of variables, says a study in January's Archives of Ophthalmology.

Novartis announced the appointment of Andrea Saia as chief executive officer (CEO) of CIBA Vision. Ms. Saia was CIBA's chief operating officer.
■ The American Optometric Association appointed Barry J. Barresi, O.D., Ph.D., as executive director of the AOA, effective July 1. Dr. Barresi is currently president of the New England Eye Institute and vice president of clinical affairs at New England College of Optometry.
■ The VSP Vision One Loan Program, which finances private-practice O.D.s in purchasing their first practices, has reached the $20 million funding mark, reports VSP incoming Board Chair James Short, O.D.
Acuvue OASYS with Hydraclear Plus is now available in a plano lens for therapeutic use (8.4mm base curve).
■ Schools of optometry and opticianry can receive 2007 copies of the OLA Progressive Identifier book free by contacting the Optical Laboratories Association office at (800) 477-5652 or
Bausch & Lomb provided 100 participating M.D.s with 100 free pairs of its Crystalens cataract-lens implant for use in 100 low-income patients, through its Changing 100 Lives in 100 Minutes program.

Optometric Management, Issue: April 2008