EW Weekly, May 15, 2020

Data shows ophthalmology volume is the hardest hit in pandemic-related shutdown
New analysis from Strata Decision Technology, using its National Patient and Procedure Volume Tracker, found ophthalmology had the highest estimated volume drop, compared to other medical specialties, due to cancelling of elective surgeries amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The analysis compared data from patient encounters March–April 2019 to those within the same timeframe in 2020. The data included more than 2 million patient visits and procedures from 51 healthcare delivery systems in 40 states with different rates of COVID-19 cases, according to the company. Ophthalmology showed an 81% estimated volume loss within that timeframe compared to 2019, according to Strata. It was followed by spine with a 76% estimated volume loss, gynecology at 75% estimated volume loss, and orthopedics with 74% estimated volume loss. More specifically for ophthalmology, volume loss was 97% for cataract, 88% for glaucoma, 77% for eye and vision conditions, 71% for retinal conditions, and 66% for corneal conditions.

Phase 3 results for dry eye disease nasal spray
Oyster Point Pharma announced topline results from its ONSET-2 Phase 3 clinical trial for OC-01 nasal spray as a treatment for dry eye disease. According to a news release from the company, there was a statistically significant improvement in mean Schirmer’s scores from baseline (more than 10 mm gained) in the treatment groups (0.6 mg/ml and 1.2 mg/ml) compared to controls. Forty-four percent of those in the 0.6 mg/ml dose group gained more than 10 mm from baseline Schirmer’s scores, as did more than 47% in the 1.2 mg/ml dose group (26% of controls gained more than 10 mm from baseline Schirmer’s scores). There was also symptom improvement at week 4 (and as early as week 2) compared to controls in the 1.2 mg/ml dose group. Safety of OC-01 continued to be consistent with prior data, according to the company.

jCyte enters licensing agreement with Santen
jCyte, a biotech company with a focus on rare degenerative retinal diseases, entered into a licensing agreement with Santen Pharmaceutical to develop a first-in-class, investigational therapy for retinitis pigmentosa outside the U.S. According to the company’s news release, jCell has received an FDA Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy designation and an Orphan Drug designation, and part of a Phase 2b clinical trial has been completed in the U.S. The intravitreal injection releases neurotrophic factors that could rescue diseased retinal cells, preserving vision, the jCyte news release explained.

Company acquisitions
TearLab announced its definitive agreement pursuant to acquisition by Accelmed Partners II, a U.S. private equity firm, this week. The acquisition, which is subject to approval from TearLab shareholders, would make the company a private company with Accelmed Partners the controlling shareholder. TearLab is known for its “lab-on-a-chip” technologies and the TearLab Osmolarity Test. Also within the past week, AbbVie completed its acquisition of Allergan, following approval from government authorities.

Verana Health, AAO expand partnership on IRIS Registry
AAO announced that Verana Health will serve as the IRIS Registry’s end-to-end data and technology partner, expanding the existing relationship between the two. Verana Health will now have responsibility for EHR integration, practice support, and MIPS quality reporting for physicians who contribute to the IRIS Registry. According to a news release, physicians will be contacted by AAO as Verana Health adds additional EHRs that are eligible for integration and quality reporting. Current services will not be disrupted, the news release stated.

ASCRS Virtual Annual Meeting and COVID-19: News You Can Use
The 2020 ASCRS Virtual Annual Meeting is set for May 16–17, tailored to the new digital space with a variety of live and on-demand educational sessions, including the two-part “Turning the Lights Back On” symposium offering a comprehensive overview of what ophthalmologists and administrators need to know to safely reopen their practices. A keynote address from former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, discussing the COVID-19 pandemic and the path forward is scheduled for May 17 at 8:00 a.m. ET. There will also be opportunities for interaction with industry through corporate-sponsored educational sessions and a full digital exhibit hall. For those already registered for the 2020 ASCRS Annual Meeting, registration will automatically be transferred to the 2020 ASCRS Virtual Annual Meeting. Visit annualmeeting.ascrs.org for updates and information. ASCRS also continues its COVID-19: News You Can Use series, a repository of information including links, tips, and resources to help navigate the fluid COVID-19 landscape, including considerations for reopening practices.

ASOA webinar series
ASOA has begun a webinar series with supplemental live Q&A. The series—Resuming Your Practice … A Digital Journey of Discovery to Help Restore Normalcy—has recorded sessions on demand from May 8 and May 11. Upcoming live presentations will occur on May 18, May 27–28, and June 2–3. The series provides 12 COE Category A credits. Find more details here.

Research highlights
  • More research about the susceptibility of the eyes as an entry point for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, was published on the preprint server bioRxiv. The research by Zhou et al. set out to determine whether ocular surface cells have factors that could make them susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Zhou et al. analyzed post-mortem eyes and surgical specimens, looking for expression of ACE2, the receptor for SARS-CoV-2, and TMPRSS, a protease that can facilitate entry after a virus binds to the ACE2 protein, according to the paper. They found expression of ACE2 in all eye specimens, suggesting that ocular surface cells are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 and could serve as an entry point for infection.
  • A physician survey published as a supplement to the journal Endocrine Practice revealed that ophthalmologists and endocrinologists think thyroid eye disease is a significant burden on patients’ quality of life. More than 180 physicians shared information on more than 700 anonymized patients with the disease about their quality of life. The survey revealed more than double the rate of anxiety and depression in this population, compared to the general U.S. population. Some factors such as strabismus, diplopia, and ocular pain more significantly impacted quality of life. The survey was sponsored by Horizon Therapeutics.
  • New research built and validated an artificial intelligence (AI) model to screen for AMD and predict its progress. The AREDS dataset was used to train and validate the model by Bhuiyan et al., and according to the research, external validation was performed on the Nutritional AMD Treatment 2 study. The AI model was able to identify early (or no) AMD vs. intermediate to late AMD (which was defined as the referral level) with 99.2% accuracy. It was also able to predict a 2-year incidence of late AMD with 86.36% accuracy, with 66.88% accuracy for late dry AMD, and with 67.15% accuracy for late wet AMD. Bhuiyan et al. concluded, based on these findings, that “validated color fundus photo-based models for AMD screening and risk prediction for late AMD are now ready for clinical testing and potential telemedicine deployment.” The research is published in the journal Translational Vision Science & Technology.

Product news
  • Sight Sciences launched an upgraded version of its OMNI Surgical System with an upgraded Luer lock fitting and pull pin, more ergonomic handle with “flexi-grip,” and enhanced gearing and wheel design, according to the company.

This issue of EyeWorld Weekly was edited by Stacy Jablonski and Vanessa Caceres.

EyeWorld Weekly (ISSN 1089-0319), a digital publication of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS), is published every Friday, distributed by email, and posted live on Friday.

Medical Editors: Eric Donnenfeld, MD, Chief Medical Editor; Rosa Braga-Mele, MD, Cataract Editor; Clara Chan, MD, Cornea Editor; Nathan Radcliffe, MD, Glaucoma Editor; and Vance Thompson, MD, Refractive Editor

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