Recent press releases regarding the potential adverse effects of aspirin on macular degeneration have caused patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) to discontinue their aspirin use without consulting their physician.1,2 There are many benefits to aspirin use, and therefore many reasons patients should continue taking the recommended aspirin dose prescribed by their primary physician or cardiologists. As with any treatment, it is important to weigh the risk/benefit ratio of aspirin use, especially in generally elderly and high-risk populations. The benefits of aspirin have long been well documented and highly recommended for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), such as myocardial infarction, stroke, and death. The recent retrospective epidemiological eye studies suggesting that aspirin use may exacerbate macular degeneration are based on three limited studies, while the benefits of aspirin use for macular degeneration patients have been suggested in larger studies, including Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), the Physicians Health Study (PHS), Women’s Health Study (WHS).1–4 Therefore, the data regarding the effects of aspirin on AMD are conflicting and inconclusive.
Full Paper: Macular Degeneration and Aspirin Use
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A 77-year-old woman with exudative macular degeneration underwent bilateral intravitreal injections of “stem cells” at a clinic in Georgia. One month and 3 months after injection, she developed retinal detachments in the left and right eyes, respectively. Increased awareness within the medical community of such poor outcomes is critical so that clinics offering untested practices that have been shown to be potentially harmful to patients can be identified and brought under U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversight.
Enthusiasm for stem cell treatment has given rise to numerous clinics in the United States offering unproven “stem cell” therapies without the oversight of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Though current FDA-regulated clinical trials are ongoing to evaluate the use of stem cell technology, unproven and unregulated “stem cell” therapies are already being offered to patients in hundreds of clinics in the United States. In June 2016, the American Academy of Ophthalmology published a clinical statement warning that unproven “stem cell” therapies “require further scientific evaluation to assure their safety and effectiveness to the public in well-conducted clinical trials under the aegis of the FDA.”1 Here, we describe a case of delayed retinal detachment with poor visual acuity and anatomical outcomes following bilateral intravitreal injection of autologous adipose tissue-derived “stem cell” therapy in a clinic in Georgia performed without FDA oversight.
Full Paper: Bilateral Retinal Detachments After Intravitreal Injection of Adipose-Derived ‘Stem Cells’ in a Patient With Exudative Macular Degeneration
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New and unique physiologic and pathologic systemic and neuro-ocular responses have been documented in astronauts during and after long-duration space flight. Although the precise cause remains unknown, space flight–associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS) has been adopted as an appropriate descriptive term. The Space Medicine Operations Division of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has documented the variable ccurrence of SANS in astronauts returning from long-duration space flight on the International Space Station. These clinical findings have included unilateral and bilateral optic disc edema, globe flattening, choroidal and retinal folds, hyperopic refractive error shifts, and nerve fiber layer infarcts. The clinical findings of SANS have been correlated with structural changes on intraorbital and intracranial magnetic resonance imaging and in-flight and terrestrial ultrasonographic studies and ocular optical coherence tomography. Further study of SANS is ongoing for consideration of future manned missions to space, including a return trip to the moon or Mars.
Full Paper: Space Flight Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome
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Floaters become more prevalent with age because of degenerative vitreous changes that occur throughout life. In youth, hyaluronan keeps collagen fibrils separated in the vitreous cavity and thus maintains transparency of the vitreous. However, with time, hyaluronan dissociates from collagen, causing cross-linking and aggregation of collagen with fibrous structures that scatter light—a process known as vitreous liquefaction.1-3
Clinically, a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is often marked by a degree of fibroglial tissue known as a Weiss ring that is free floating over the optic nerve. A PVD allows the vitreous body to move when the head or eye moves, and thus, the Weiss ring and vitreous opacities cast shadows onto the retina that are perceived as floaters.
A PVD is present in approximately 65% of patients reaching the age of 65 years.4,5 Although most patients grow accustomed to the visual disturbance associated with Weiss rings and other floaters, many find them bothersome.6 Floaters can reduce contrast sensitivity and quality of life.7,8
Three management options exist for symptomatic floaters: patient education and observation, pars plana vitrectomywith a 1-incision Intrector (in which a 1-incision, limited core vitrectomy is performed while visualizing through an indirect ophthalmoscope; Insight Instruments) or a standard 3-port vitrector, and YAG vitreolysis.
Existing literature assessing the effect of YAG laser on the properties of rabbit vitreous has suggested that pathologic disruption may occur with laser application in the middle or posterior vitreous.9 There are limited published studies on the effect of YAG vitreolysis for treating symptomatic floaters in humans. Small, uncontrolled cases series6,10,11 assessing YAG vitreolyisis report some symptomatic success and suggest a good safety profile. No prospective, sham-controlled trials have been performed, to our knowledge. This is particularly important because of the subjective nature of floater related visual disturbance and the potential of placebo effect confounding the efficacy of treatment. Research by Karickhoff12 showed the most robust outcomes when treating Weiss rings. Therefore, the current study evaluated YAG vitreolysis in patients with symptomatic Weiss rings.
Full Paper: YAG Laser Vitreolysis vs Sham YAG Vitreolysis for Symptomatic Vitreous Floaters
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Recent practices at “stem cell clinics” in the United States have resulted in blinding complications for three patients who underwent bilateral intravitreal injection of adipose-derived stem cell injections for dry age-related macular degeneration, as recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine: patient’s vision went from 20/30 to no light perception and 20/200.
The “stem cell clinics” problem is that they provide unproven, unregulated, and costly ($50,000) treatment for a variety of disorders and raise high concern for patients.
By having studies listed on clinicaltrials.gov, “stem cell clinics” seemingly bolster their legitimacy to patients. clinicaltrials.gov website is simply a repository of clinical studies and does not judge the merits of the listed studies.
It is important to encourage patients to speak with a “trusted healthcare professional” prior to enrolling in a study. Exploring the difference between the positive stem cell research and the activities carried out at “stem cell clinics” is essential in preventing such catastrophic outcomes.
Further regulation of these “stem cell clinics” is also necessary to help prevent similar outcomes in the future.
“Implications of Stem Cell Clinics for Retina Patients and Clinical Trials” Retinal Physician, Volume 14, Issue: May 2017, page(s) 32,40: Ajay E. Kuriyan, MD, MS; Thomas Albini, MD; Harry W. Flynn, Jr., MD
“The Growing ‘Stem Cell Clinic’ Problem” American Journal of Ophthalmology, Volume 177, xix–xx: Ajay E. Kuriyan, MD, MS; Thomas Albini, MD; Harry W. Flynn, Jr., MD
Table 1. “Age-Related Macular Degeneration Clinical Trials With Oral Medications”
(Retinalphysician.com | April 2017)
Full Paper: Age-Related Macular Degeneration Clinical Trials With Oral Medications Table
Study: A Phase 2/3 Trial to Assess the Safety and Efficacy of Intravitreous Administration of Zimura (Anti-C5 Aptamer) in Subjects With Geographic Atrophy Secondary to Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Purpose: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of intravitreous administration of Zimura when administered in subjects with geographic atrophy (GA) secondary to dry age-related macular degeneration
Design: Randomized, Safety/Efficacy, Parallel Assignment, Double Blind
Number of Patients: 300
Inclusion Criteria: Diagnosis of non-foveal GA secondary to dry AMD
Exclusion Criteria: Retinal atrophy involving the fovea; evidence of CNV; any prior treatment for AMD or any prior intravitreal treatment for any indication in either eye, except oral supplements of vitamins and minerals; any intraocular surgery or thermal laser within 3 months of trial entry; any prior thermal laser in the macular region, regardless of indication; any ocular or periocular infection in the 12 weeks prior to entry; previous therapeutic radiation in the region of the study eye; any sign of diabetic retinopathy in either eye
Full Paper: Retinal Physician Clinical Trial Update
Purpose: To characterize the first 10 years of intravitreal anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) medication use for ophthalmic disease, including bevacizumab, ranibizumab, and aflibercept.
Design: A retrospective cohort study using administrative claims data from January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2015.
Subjects: Total of 124 835 patients 18 years of age or over in the United States.
Methods: OptumLabs Data Warehouse, which includes administrative claims data for over 100 million commercially insured and Medicare Advantage individuals, was used to identify patients receiving intravitreal anti-VEGF injections based on Current Procedural Terminology codes.
Main Outcome Measures: Total and annual numbers of intravitreal anti-VEGF injections, as well as injections per 1000 enrolled patients per general category of ophthalmic disease, overall and for each available medication.
Results: There were 959 945 anti-VEGF injections among 124 835 patients from 2006 to 2015. Among all injections, 64.6% were of bevacizumab, 22.0% ranibizumab, and 13.4% aflibercept; 62.7% were performed to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), 16.1% to treat diabetic retinal diseases (including 0.9% of all injections that were for proliferative diabetic retinopathy), 8.3% to treat retinal vein occlusions, and 12.9% for all other uses. Use of bevacizumab and ranibizumab for AMD plateaued as of 2011/2012 and decreased thereafter (in 2006, 58.8 and 35.3 injections/1000 AMD patients, respectively; in 2015, 294.4 and 100.7 injections/1000), whereas use of aflibercept increased (1.1 injections/1000 AMD patients in 2011 to 183.0 injections/1000 in 2015). Bevacizumab use increased each year for diabetic retinal disease (2.4 injections/1000 patients with diabetic retinal disease in 2009 to 13.6 per 1000 in 2015) while that of ranibizumab initially increased significantly and then declined after 2014 (0.1 in 2009 to 4.0 in 2015). Aflibercept use increased each year in patients with diabetic etinal diseases and retinal vein occlusions (both >0.1 per 1000 retinal vein occlusion patients in 2011, 5.6 and 140.2 in 2015).
Conclusions: Intravitreal injections of anti-VEGF medications increased annually from 2006 to 2015. Bevacizumab was the most common medication used, despite its lacking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to treat ophthalmic disease, and AMD was the most common condition treated. Ranibizumab use declined after 2014 while both the absolute and relative use of bevacizumab and aflibercept increased. Ophthalmology 2017;124:352-358 ª 2016 by the American Academy of Ophthalmology
Full Paper: Trends of Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Use in Ophthalmology Among Privately Insured and Medicare Advantage Patients