Maybe They Have Something

Good afternoon! It was a busy morning. My husband had to take the car for service so he dropped me off at the hospital for a shoulder x-ray and routine blood work. My shoulder pain is little better.

You would think I could just continue with up dogs, down dogs, planks, side planks and all those other yoga moves with no negative effects, but nooooo, my shoulder is really sore. It might have something to do with my not being as young as I used to be, but I doubt it.😊

Then I walked down to get a haircut and Pizza Hut buffet lunch. Picked up by hubby. Grocery store. This year’s photos to the camera store for display. Home.

I have cleaning to do. I have a report to write. Oh, well. I have an OBLIGATION to our website!

At the end of last year Lin did a page on topical treatment for wet AMD. That means eye drops instead of shots. One of the ones she talked about was Squalamine. At that time Squalamine had failed to satisfy the efficacy standard laid out and the trials had been terminated.

Squalamine had failed to reduce the number of shots needed to keep crazy, blood vessel growth at bay. However, there were some secondary goals that were reached. According to the January 29, 2017 VisionAware, there were positive effects on acuity. This was especially true in people with a specific type of lesion. 31% of the people with ‘classic’ wet AMD lesions gained 11 letters on the chart!

According to healio.com a classic lesion in wet AMD has well-demarcated hyperfluorescence in the early part of the test and progressive leakage later on. It is not to be confused with occult or combined lesions.

Ohl Pharmaceuticals decided in February, 2017 to take the 200 people already enrolled and start in on phase 3 trials. In April Ohl announced it was amending the timelines of the study so there could be results late this year or early 2018. They also amended their goal to be an increase in visual acuity as opposed to a reduction in shots needed.

Now, I am wandering into the area of unsubstantiated speculation here, so don’t take what I say as gospel. OK ? OK. The April 10th press release alluded to the research being funded until early 2018. To quote: “Following the close of financing today we are funded until 2018 including completion of our ongoing clinical trial and data readout by the end of 2017 or early 2018.” Now if that were me and I were getting positive results, I would want to show off those results quickly and improve investments and other funding. If I had squat, I would stall and plead for just a little more time and MONEY.

In other words, I think they have something.

Another reason I think they have something? The press release said they were working with the patients who had “the greatest potential to benefit from Squalamine combined therapy”. In other words, they stacked the deck. (In my opinion, of course.)

Anticipating they rock the phase 3 study AND the FDA gives approval to ‘go live’ in a reasonable amount of time, a combination Squalamine/Lucentis treatment could be available in 2018. Cool. We are on our way.

Written October 9th, 2017 Continue reading “Maybe They Have Something”

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Overcoming Uncertainty

Medical treatment is a very uncertain proposition. Writing for the Journal of Graduate Medical Education Wray and Loo quoted Sir William Osler as saying “Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probabilities”. The authors report that rarely is evidence of benefit totally clear-cut when a treatment has been administered. Also, it is rare for practitioners to agree totally on a treatment.

Sometimes opinions are expressed in such a robust manner by both that the patient is left in a quandary. How are we supposed to know who is correct? What are we supposed to do now?!?!

Wray and Loo suggest doctors (and others) look at the evidence. Is there evidence suggesting one treatment is superior to another? What does the research say?

Lin and I are big on research. The truth will be seen in the research. Notice I used the word will, future tense.

Work being done on AMD causes, treatments and maybe even cures is in its infancy. Like all infants, things are subject to change. The infant with blonde hair and a little button nose who you think looks just like your father may grow up to have brown hair and a ‘beak’ just like his uncle on the other side of the family! Final results subject to change without notice. Wait and see.

So many doctors don’t like to say they don’t know. Wray and Loo say it is a mark of professionalism to be able to discuss the pros and cons AND the uncertainties of a treatment, but how often does that happen? Maybe there is not enough time. Maybe they are uncomfortable being fallible. Maybe they think we can’t take it.

Wray and Loo talk about the emotional burden of uncertainty. Uncertainty is nerve-wracking. Many of us feel better believing any plausible nonsense than being told there is, as of yet, no answer.

The problem with believing strongly in something uncertain just so we HAVE an answer? When you find out your life-preserver is actually a cement block, you are too invested in it to let go!

How to handle uncertainty. I actually had to smile because when I went online what I found was totally in line with DBT.😉 If you want to go back to the DBT pages, have at it.

Travis Bradberry, a positive psychology proponent, shares 11 Ways Emotionally Intelligent People Overcome Uncertainty. Bradberry tells us our brains are hardwired to react to uncertainty with fear. He quotes a study in which people without information made increasingly erratic and irrational decisions.The diagram Bradberry showed was a brain and his caption said “uncertainty makes your brain yield control to the limbic system. You must engage your rational brain to stay on track”. Sounds three states of mind-ish to me.

Beyond that, Bradberry suggests calming your limbic system by focusing on the rational and real, being mindful of positives, taking stock of what you really know and don’t know, embracing what you cannot control (also known as accepting reality), focusing on reality, not trying to be perfect, not dwelling on problems, knowing when to listen to your gut, having a contingency plan (what I have always called plan B), not asking what if questions and – guess what! – breathing and being in the moment.

Hope this helped some. Remember this journey is not a sprint, it is a marathon. In fact it is a marathon that we don’t even know the course. Keep an open mind and don’t latch onto anything out of fear. Eventually we will find the way.
Continue reading “Overcoming Uncertainty”

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This and That

Hey, guys! No idea what I am going to write about. I will just start and see what comes out. I have an hour to kill before going to teach class.

Told you I renewed my driver’s license yesterday. That was sort of stressful. I tried to do everything ‘right’ so I did not end up ‘outing’ myself. I would not want to try to pass as fully sighted everyday. I guess the truth really does set you free!

Remember: I don’t drive. My stubbornness and vanity are not worth someone’s life. I just needed to feel like a ‘big girl’.

After that I went and made a physical therapy appointment. I need to bring this shoulder back to health. Right now it is cramping my style worse than the eyes. The eyes don’t hurt! The shoulder does. I thought I was being good, but it still aches. Try trying to be active but not using one arm. Grrrrrrrrrr……

After kayaking on Sunday (yes, I know I have a bum shoulder. It reminds me hourly), I went to the phone store and got a new cell phone. Two and a half hours later and I was out of there. In that time I had to go potty at least once. If the process went on for another half an hour I was going to ask them to order take out!

Anyway, the point is this: phone store people are very helpful. They will spend the time with you. I still have a lot of stuff to do on the phone but Ron, the phone store guy, gave me his number and he promised to walk me through it all. As soon as I figure out some of what the hey I am doing on this phone, I want to load the augmented reality app and see how it works as a magnifier.

If your phone is slightly older, like mine was, it might behoove you to invest in a new one. On the new one, Ron turned the magnification up all the way. If I do the three taps thing after that, letters can be ¾ of an inch high. The easier to see, my dears.

Three taps thing? Yep. It is possible on Android phones to tap the screen three times in quick succession and everything magnifies. Three times again and it goes back down. No one may have showed you that little trick. The younger generation believe tech knowledge is innate, not learned. They think we should know.

And now news some of you can actually use, they are finding more evidence that we may be better off doing genetic testing before we start drug therapy. PubMed recently ran an article citing research that the risk allele of the Y402H polymorphism in the CFH gene is related to less favorable outcomes when using bevacizumab (Avastin) or ranibizumab (Lucentis). (Quiz: What does -zumab as a suffix tell us? Answer: humanized antibody. I learned something!) The ‘in English’ version of that is this: if you have a certain variation on the complement factor H gene, your response to those drugs will be less than you expected when it comes to wet AMD control. If you are not getting desired outcomes with either bevacizumab or ranibizumab, you might suggest your doctor try another drug instead. It appears that, in some cases, if one of those drugs doesn’t work well, the other one won’t work well either.

Well, I guess I should stop prattling here. Need to get ready to go again. Type at you later!

written July 12th, 2017

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Eyes Open, Mouth Closed

TGIF! In real time, welcome to the weekend!

In the interest of fair and unbiased reporting, I am once again writing about wet AMD…..well, actually I am writing about intravitreal injections, a topic many more of us are going to be interested in very soon. Although there seem to be PLENTY of you wet folks getting the shots already. Did you know intravitreal injections are the most commonly performed medical procedure in the US? According to a 2015 Review of Ophthalmology article, Updated Guidelines for Intravitreal Injections, the numbers are twice what they are for cataract surgery. That makes sense considering people only ever have two cataract operations as opposed to perhaps 24 or more injections in a year alone. No matter the logic behind the numbers, though, that is still a lot of trips to the doctor.

Anyway, when shots first started in 2004, there was a ‘best practices’ paper written. That paper was revisited in 2014.

One thing I noticed? You chatty people should stop trying to engage the doctors and nurses in conversation! That was suggested back in 2004 and has been supported in more recent literature.

Why, you may ask. Do you remember when your parents told you not to bite (or get bit!) because the human mouth is filthy? They were right. Mouths are ridiculously germy.

Healio reported a strict ‘no talk’ policy during injections causes substantial difference. Chatty doctors had seven cases of infection due to oral pathogens. Doctors who did not talk had two. Granted, these numbers were over a total of over 47,000 injections, but do you want to be the one with a raging eye infection? (That answer should be ‘no’.)

And if you asked to have a companion for ‘moral support’ and got told no? Infection was probably the reason. Doctors can control whether they speak or not, but they have no control over people you bring with you. They are not being cruel. Leave the motor mouth in the car.

Other things in the best practices paper were equally common sense. Use adequate antibiotics and anesthesia. Monitor intraocular pressure. Wash your hands! The whole idea is to reduce discomfort and reduce infection, not necessarily in that order.

Pretty much, the lesson is: avoid infection. Make sure you have a nice, clean face and hands when you get there. Understand why you cannot have people with you. Be quiet and allow the medical staff to be silent as well. Although the paper said masks and sterile drapes are optional, if you want them, you have the right to request them.

Once again, the goal is to keep you comfortable and – more importantly! – keep you from having eye infections. Stay healthy! In the end, the responsibility is on you. Speak up about concerns. If they won’t cooperate, look for other resources. Continue reading “Eyes Open, Mouth Closed”

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A Dozen Years of Progress

Here I am again, trying to offer a balanced look at AMD. Rumor has it the wet folks are wondering when they will get consistent coverage of their issues. Dunno.

When are we getting someone with wet AMD to write for us? You write. We publish. Until then, I can throw a few pages together, but my problem is dry. I cannot even begin to speak to the subject as well as someone with wet could. Consider it.

Found an article from BrightFocus Foundation. Title: How Effective are Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I like how the author points out there were very few treatments a scant 12 years ago. As the baby boomers we continue to drive many, many things in the world. Pig through the python; yes? We are now losing our vision and unless something is done, we are going to break the bank with our care needs. People respond to numbers, large numbers.

Which brings me to, did you know there are something like 200,000 new cases of CNV (wet AMD) every year in the United States alone? That is from CATT at 2 years: the facts.

I got to the CATT study because the BrightFocus article (above) referred to it. It is a 2010 study that seems to remain pertinent today. It was mentioned with ANCHOR, MARINA and HORIZON. These are all efficacy studies for your ‘shots’.

In the ANCHOR and MARINA studies Lucentis was proven to improve vision several lines on the chart. This was in the short term. The HORIZON and CATT studies were longer term and in these some gains were lost.

The VIEW trials suggested Eylea every eight weeks is superior to Lucentis every four weeks. However, more study is needed.

Avastin is a cancer drug. Injected into the body, it inhibits growth of new blood vessels in tumors. It tries to starve those, nasty things. Off-label use of Avastin for CNV has shown similar efficacy to Lucentis.

A big selling point for Avastin is cost. The article suggests it is $50 a shot. The others are thirty to forty times that much! Insurance problems? Talk to your retinologist about Avastin.

The BrightFocus article ends with good news. Did I mention I like this guy’s attitude? He reported a more recent CATT finding was 50% of patients retained 20/40 vision in the treated eye five years after the start of anti-VEGF treatments. Only 20% had 20/200 or worse! What do you think of those apples?

Again, these gains are in little more than a decade. How can you doubt more great things are coming and coming fast?

OK. How’d I do?

written July 1st, 2017

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Blast From the Past

And now, you have been asking for it, I present WET AMD!

Not that I have any first hand experience with the stuff nor do I wish to but I found an article on the history of treatment and thought I should share it. Feel free to chime in.

Preview of coming attractions…or a review depending upon how fast Lin gets her AMD timeline done…the first treatment for wet AMD was laser coagulation in 1979. That folks was less than 40 years ago. That would have been when some of your parents were dealing with AMD and vision loss. Before lasers? Nada. Again, this is not your parents’ AMD.

Since zapping little, tiny bleeders was not an exact science (remember, this was before Blaster Master and other now classic video games. Few people were that skilled), there were some misses. That’s when they came up with Visudyne, a drug that helped to ‘light up’ the target. A specially designed laser activated the Visudyne which selectively destroyed the bleeders. Better but still not great.

The article, Macular Degeneration Treatment from AMDF, went on to talk about 3 problems with laser treatment of CNV bleeders. First, because bleeders may have been too large or poorly delineated, only about 10 to 15% of them could be treated with lasers. Second, there was a 50% chance the leak would reoccur in two years and third, 50% of the treated patients still had subfoveal leakage. Also mentioned was the possibility of technicians with bad aims and further, inflicted damage.

Anti-VEGF is put into use in 2004. We land a Rover on Mars. Lord of the Rings is best picture and Harold Shipman is found hanged in his cell in Manchester, UK. Remember 2004? That was not that long ago! 2004 seems like yesterday, but since then, 13 short years ago, in some parts of the world, Anti-VEGF has reduced the rate of legal blindness by 50%. Wow!

Of course nothing is perfect. Vascular function in the rest of the body has been a worry for some. However, stroke data has been inconclusive. There have been cases of eye infections, increased eye pressure, retinal detachment and floaters.

Not sure where we will be going from here with wet AMD. Some of the work being done on dry AMD will head off both cases of wet and GA. Recall wet and GA are both advanced stages of the disease. New delivery systems are being developed and researchers are kicking around phrases like platelet-derived growth factors, receptor antagonists and immunomodulatory therapy whatever they are. It is a brave new world and we are getting to be part of it. [Click here for the most recent review of research for both dry and wet AMD.]

There you have it: my attempt at fair and unbiased reporting. I will try to do some more about wet AMD but, frankly, the effort may not last. We really need someone to cover this ‘beat’. Any takers? Continue reading “Blast From the Past”

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Timeline Part 1: Advances in Treatment & Care for People with Macular Degeneration

It’s Lin/Linda.  I created this page to go with Sue’s page Not Your Parents’ AMD.  Like some of you, I had a loved one with AMD.  It was my father who was diagnosed with AMD in 2005 at the age of 82.  At the time, I was living 700 miles away and I did not know much about the disease or at what stage he was diagnosed.  He progressed to geographic atrophy (GA), that much I knew.  He was the sole caregiver for my mother who had Alzheimer’s Disease.  He continued to drive (not safely), take care of her and the house.  He was never referred to vision rehabilitation or offered any help other than being told to use handheld magnifiers.

I wondered how things have changed since then which led me to do this timeline review.  Not only have there been advances in the medical end of the field but also in the technology that is allowing people to remain independent for as long as possible.  That is if a person learns how to use the various devices and apps available.

I’ve based the categories of time on an article Age-Related Macular Degeneration
1969 –2004: A 35-Year Personal Perspective by Stuart L. Fine, MD published in 2005.  He says “In 1969, patients with AMD constituted a small part of a typical ophthalmic practice. From 1969 to 2004, the prevalence of AMD has increased, and the methods of evaluation and treatment have changed dramatically.”

I know I have missed many events that have been critical to the history of the treatment & care of AMD.  There is SO much information out there and I’ve tried to use the most significant dates I could find.  Have a suggestion of what to include? Did I get a date wrong? Let me know in a comment or send me an email at light2sight5153@gmail.com.

1st Era: 1969–1979
  • Emergence of fluorescein fundus photography: test used in diagnosis of retinal diseases
  • Development of ‘hot’ (high power) laser photocoagulation, first treatment for wet AMD
  • Relationship of drusen to age-related macular degeneration
  • Other developments:
    • 1976-1977 first personal computers affordable for home use
    • more low vision aids:
      • 1960s large print books became available
      • 1976 large print calculators became available
      • 1969-1970 CCTV (closed caption TV) for reading aid
2nd Era: 1980–1994
  • Clinical trials to evaluate new treatments, especially laser photocoagulation (1979-1994)
  • Development of risk factor data from large and small epidemiologic studies (epidemology is looking for patterns & causes)
  • mid-1980s term ‘senile macular degeneration’ becomes ‘age-related macular degeneration’
  • Other developments:
    • 1982 Vitreous Society was founded; 1983 first meeting attended by 44 retinal specialists
    • 1991 OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) test used in diagnosis of retinal diseases
    • mid 1980s name changed from ‘senile macular degeneration’ to ‘age-related macular degeneration’
    • 1992 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    • 1983 first cell phones
    • 1991 World Wide Web for ‘surfing’ the Internet with easy-to-use browsers
    • low vision aids:
      • MaxiAids catalog of aids for orders from people with low vision & other impairments
    • technology/low vision aids:
      • 1982 DragonSystems founded Dragon NaturallySpeaking, speech to text
      • 1988 ZoomText was released which is software to magnify text on a computer screen
3rd Era: 1995–2003
  • Evaluation of radiation therapy for neovascular AMD, not proven to be effective
  • Assessment of pharmacologic interventions for neovascular AMD; Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) “cold” (low power laser) with Visudyne (first drug treatment;  2001)
  • Prevention trials: results AREDS released 2001
  • Other developments:
    • 1995 Amazon sells books online (1998 expands beyond just books; e-books 2000)
    • 1996 Google released
    • 1998 first e-book reader The Rocket
    • 2000 GPS available for civilians; 2001 personal navigation systems available like Garmin and TomTom
    • 2000 Microsoft & Amazon sell e-books
4th Era: 2004 – 2017
  • Completion of ongoing trials for neovascular AMD: FDA approval: Macugen 2004; Avastin 2004; Lucentis 2006; Eylea 2011
  • Earlier identification of eyes at risk: regular use of OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) and other diagnostic tests
  • Prevention trials: results AREDS2 released 2013
  • Increased number of retinal specialists: eg, American Association of Retinal Specialists (ASRS), formerly Vitreous Society (see 1982 above), has 2700 members representing 60 countries.
  • Other developments:
    • 2011 First baby boomers turn 65
    • 2004 Facebook
    • 2013 first ‘bionic eye’ retinal implant, Argus II approved by FDA
    • technology:
      • 2007 Amazon Kindle e-reader; iPhone & Apple IOS
      • 2008 Android 1.0 & Android phone
      • 2010 Apple iPad
    • technology/low vision aids:
      • 2005 Apple VoiceOver for Mac users
      • 2009 VoiceOver added to iPhone IOS
      • 2010 FDA approved implantable telescope
      • smart glasses/wearable technology
      • 2014 KNFB Reader app for Apple & Android; 2017 for Windows 10
    • ongoing research areas:

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