February 2016




Glaukos work in glaucoma technology and global charity

by Adrianne Resek, MA


Visual impairment is ubiquitous, affecting 826 million people, young and old, rich and poor, all over the world.1 The combined cost of productivity losses, welfare, and care costs due to visual impairment is more than $707 billion each year. The cost to the individuals who suffer from visual impairment, including diminished quality of life and loss of earning potential, is inestimable. However, in 80% of these cases the impairment could be cured or improved with proper treatment. Unfortunately, many of those who suffer from visual impairment and blindness do not have access to basic health services and essential surgeries that could restore their sight. An estimated 90% of the worlds visually impaired live in low-income environments. Glaucoma is the third most common cause of blindness, affecting 43 million people every year.

Since its inception, Glaukos has consistently made charitable donations to support pro bono eyecare in underprivileged countries, while at the same time working on innovative approaches to glaucoma care.

Underprivileged areas pose unique challenges

Glaukos created the first and only microinvasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) device to receive FDA approval: the iStent Trabecular MicroBypass. Like a shunt, the iStent facilitates aqueous outflow. However, the device is only 1 mm long and 0.33 mm wide, and can be implanted under topical anesthesia using an ab-interno approach. The surgery causes minimal trauma, poses few complications, and has a rapid recovery time.

While the iStent has proven beneficial for patients of all walks of life, it is especially advantageous in underprivileged areas, including Third World countries. Traditional treatments for glaucoma are ineffective in underdeveloped countries for a number of reasons. Glaucoma expert Reay Brown, MD, Atlanta, said, The medicated eye drops used in treating early stage glaucoma can be difficult for patients in poverty-stricken areas to acquire, due to inadequate supply, lack of funds, and the universal issue of poor compliance. The need for an effective way to control IOP and avoid loss of the optic nerve in this population cannot be overstated.

Innovation meets philanthropy

The iStent is an effective weapon against glaucoma in underdeveloped regions because it reduces the need for ongoing medication, which is unlikely to be used. The MIGS procedure can be executed quickly and easily, maximizing the number of patients that can be treated by a single doctor. Fewer complications and an expedited recovery time translate to decreased need for extensive postop care.

Global philanthropy as well as technology development is important to Glaukos. Part of our core mission is to give back to the glaucoma community. We care deeply about our patients and are committed to creating a legacy of goodwill that improves the lives of glaucoma patients worldwide, said Thomas Burns, Glaukos CEO. In total, the company has approved every individual charitable request proffered to date and has donated stents to more than 2,200 individuals in 16 developing countries and underserved regions, including Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mongolia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leon, and the United States.

The company was part of a collaborative effort to conduct research and train local surgeons in Armenia. In addition to their research efforts, 20% of the devices they implanted there were purely charitable, donated to patients unconnected with the study. They also provide ongoing, pro bono clinical services to further their commitment to improving vision around the world. Glaukos has increased the reach of their charitable donations by making the iStent available to a wide variety of universities and charitable organizations including the ASCRS Foundation, the First Methodist United Church, Friends of Rudy Nicaraguan Health, Fundacion de la Tierra, Hospital de la Familia, the International Association of Lions Clubs, the International Eye Institute, Moran Eye Center, the Mission at Natuvu Creek, Missionary Ventures International, Operation Sight, St. John the Baptist Peru Eye Mission, Surgical Eye Expeditions, the University of Utah, the Virtue Foundation, and the Visionary Ophthalmology Foundation. Many of those who suffer from vision impairment have limited resources and may have limited access to ophthalmological care. With the iStent, Glaukos meets a need in the glaucoma community.


1. www.icoph.org/resources/146/The-Global- Economic-Cost-of-Visual-Impairment.html

Editors note: Dr. Brown has financial interests with Glaukos.

Contact information

: reaymary@comcast.net

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