Blind World Magazine

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) patient counseling program launched.

June 15, 2005.
Canada NewsWire.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. today launched a nationwide education program designed to generate much-needed awareness among the growing number of Canadians who are at risk for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss and blindness in people over 50(1). More than 2.1 million Canadians are currently affected by AMD(2). One in five Canadians between the ages of 50 and 64 is at risk for developing AMD(3). In fact, the condition is so prevalent it affects more people than Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease combined(4).

A little known condition, AMD is fast becoming the quiet but ever-growing contributor to vision loss and blindness. According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, almost 78,000 Canadians are diagnosed with AMD each year, a number expected to triple within the next 25 years(5). Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., distributors of (Pr)Visudyne(x) and Vitalux(x), has taken an unprecedented step in raising awareness of this disease by developing the AMD Patient Counselling Program, available at eye doctor's offices across the country.

The AMD Patient Counselling Program features resources to facilitate dialogue between patients and doctors, fulfilling an unmet patient education need. The Program materials include eye doctor reference materials, educational posters detailing the physiology of the eye, and five comprehensive patient-friendly brochures. These brochures are designed to help at-risk patients and those diagnosed with AMD to better understand the disease, associated risk factors and treatment options for both dry and wet AMD. Visudyne is the standard treatment for wet AMD. Vitalux is used for the treatment of dry AMD. Vitalux is the leading ocular vitamin(6).

Developed in response to patient and doctor demand, the AMD Patient Counselling Program resources were created with the active participation of eye doctors. A panel of distinguished Retina Specialists, Ophthalmologists and Optometrists from across Canada reviewed and approved the Program.

"The AMD Patient Counselling Program is a welcomed - and much needed - tool for ocular health professionals and their patients. Both eye doctors and patients will be pleased with the quality and depth of the materials," said Dr. Patricia Harvey, Retina Specialist, University Health Network. "The program will help to ensure patients understand their disease. Thanks to this program and its resources, doctors have detailed information, and patients have easy-to-read materials. This is especially important as the Canadian population ages and cases of AMD are likely to rise."

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), Canada's primary provider of vision-loss support services and information is an advocate of the Novartis AMD patient counselling program.

"We applaud all efforts to raise awareness of AMD and the importance of taking control of vision health," said Wendy Gibbs, CNIB's Vice President of Development and Communications. "The Novartis patient counseling program addresses a tremendous need for information about AMD prevention, treatment and rehabilitation options available to Canadians facing vision loss."

In addition to the AMD Patient Counselling Program, Novartis has invested significantly in raising awareness of AMD and to reinforce the need for early diagnosis through an advertising campaign entitled 'I wish I had known'. The investment made by Novartis throughout 2004 is the first with respect to AMD awareness. John Snisarenko, Vice President, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., explained the rationale for this high level campaign:

"Early diagnosis is critical to preventing and treating AMD. Understanding the symptoms and reducing risk factors are integral steps to combating this disease. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. has worked with leaders in the AMD field, the CNIB and other AMD Alliance Canadian Partners to create a base of knowledge and has invested heavily to distribute this information across the country. Anyone over the age of 50 is at risk for developing AMD. It is a devastating disease and not nearly enough people know how to identify it."

Risk factors for developing AMD include family history of AMD, gender (females are more susceptible), smoking, diet (low antioxidant levels of vitamins/minerals), excessive sunlight exposure, high blood pressure and obesity.

About Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of central vision loss and is the leading cause of severe blindness in Canada for people over the age of 50. Vision loss associated with AMD has been shown to significantly decrease quality of life. Everyday tasks such as driving and walking can be severely affected. Awareness of the condition and treatment in the initial stages of the disease are essential for patients to take the necessary steps to halt progression of AMD.

Vision loss from AMD occurs in two forms: dry and wet. The dry form is associated with atrophic cell death of the central retina and central vision is lost gradually. The wet form is caused by growth of abnormal blood vessels under the central part of the retina or macula. These vessels leak fluid and blood and cause scar tissue that destroys the central retina. This results in rapid deterioration of sight over a period of weeks to months. Untreated, the majority of eyes affected with wet AMD will become functionally blind within approximately two years.

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