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Optometrists Form Group to Protect Newly Won Privileges

It’s a ‘ballot question committee to educate voters.’

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Optometrists in Arkansas are organizing to fend off an initiative by ophthalmologists to undo recent legislation, the Arkansas Times reports.

The legislation, signed into law in March, permits optometrists to perform certain surgeries. But Safe Surgery Arkansas, a group of medical doctors, is trying to use a ballot referendum to roll back the legislation.

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Enter Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, which describes itself as “a ballot question committee to educate voters about the improved eye care options available to Arkansans under Act 579 of the 2019 legislative session.”

“Act 579 gives Arkansas patients better access to quality care by allowing optometrists to perform more of the procedures we are absolutely qualified to safely perform,” Dr. Belinda Starkey, an Arkansas optometrist and member of the Arkansans for Healthy Eyes committee, said in a press release announcing the formation of the group.

“Despite the fear tactics being used by opponents, we are actually only talking about a handful of minimally invasive procedures, done right in your optometrist’s chair, and without the need for general anesthesia.”

Amanda Story, spokesperson for Arkansans for Healthy Eyes, said: “The other side claims Arkansans’ eye health is at stake if Act 579 goes into effect, but the truth is, the eye health of Arkansas patients will suffer if this law doesn’t go into effect. For some patients, especially in rural parts of the state, being able to receive enhanced care from their optometrist, instead of having to go through the wait, travel, and added cost of a specialist visit, may mean the difference between getting a needed procedure, or going without.”

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The Times reports that in order to qualify for the ballot, the ophthalmologists’ group will need the signatures of 54,000 registered voters by July 23.

R. Scott Lowery, president of the Arkansas Ophthalmological Society, has been quoted saying: “Every day the people of Arkansas rely on medical doctors who have the experience and training to perform medical procedures to ensure that they are getting world class healthcare in Arkansas. We are confident that when the people are heard on this issue, they will not allow individuals without medical degrees and without surgical residencies to jeopardize the precious eyesight of Arkansans.”

Procedures that the legislation allows optometrists to perform include selective laser trabeculoplasty and Nd:YAG laser procedures, along with injections (excluding intravenous and intraocular), removal of lid lesions and chalazion incision and curettage.

The bill called on the Arkansas Board of Optometry to establish credentialing requirements for optometrists to perform these laser procedures, as well as require those doctors to report the outcomes of their procedures to the board.

Read more at Arkansas Times

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Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Idaho Considers Allowing ODs to Perform Laser Eye Surgery

But the bill has drawn opposition from some ophthalmologists.

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Proposed legislation in Idaho would give optometrists the right to perform laser eye surgery.

In order to perform laser procedures, optometrists would have to pass an examination by the National Board of Examiners in Optometry, East Idaho News reports. They they would be required to do at least five of the procedures under supervision of an ophthalmologist.

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The proposal is a House bill supported by The Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licensing. It’s currently being discussed in the House Health & Welfare Committee.

“We want to make sure that our laws and rules are as up to date as possible,” said Julie Eavenson of the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licensing, according to East Idaho News.

“And the reason that we’re looking at them is because the governor has said — and the Legislature — ‘You need to have minimum qualifications. You need to protect the public, but you need to remove barriers.'”

The bill has drawn opposition from some ophthalmologists.

The legislation “poses an incredible risk to Idahoans and ignores the importance of medical education and training to perform surgery,” Dr. James Earl of Retina Specialists of Idaho said in a press release issued by from Eye M.D.s of Idaho.

The issue has been hotly debated in other states.

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In March, the governor of Arkansas signed into law a measure allowing optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures. The operations included selective laser trabeculoplasty and Nd:YAG laser procedures, along with injections (excluding intravenous and intraocular), removal of lid lesions and chalazion incision and curettage.

At the time, the American Optometric Association stated that Arkansas was the fourth state to permit laser procedures and that Alaska was developing regulations for their use.

Read more at the East Idaho News

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AOA Approved for Group Purchasing of Lenses, Frames, Contacts

The U.S. Department of Justice gave its OK.

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The U.S. Department of Justice has given the American Optometric Association the nod to expand its group purchasing activities to include lenses, frames and contacts.

The association and its subsidiary AOAExcel GPO LLC had asked the department for a business review letter on the matter. Law360 explains that such a document can provide “proactive assurances of non-enforcement.”

The department explained in the Jan. 15 letter that it “presently does not intend to challenge the GPO’s expansion to include optometric products.” It noted, however, that it “reserves the right to challenge the GPO in the future if the GPO’s operations are determined to be anticompetitive in purpose or effect.”

Up until now, AOA’s group purchasing organization has only offered non-optometric products, such as professional liability insurance, credit card processing, life insurance, general office supplies, general medical supplies and equipment. It uses Intalere, a third-party healthcare group purchasing organization, as its agent to negotiate discounts on products and services.

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As of February 2019, 1,011 association member optometric practices had signed up to participate, and 251 practices had made at least one purchase.

The Department of Justice wrote: “Based on our investigation and your representations described above regarding the GPO [group purchasing organization] and its proposed expansion to include optometric products, the GPO expansion is unlikely to produce anticompetitive effects.”

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Biotech Firm Raises $30M for Eye Disease Therapies

It’s focusing on retinal and other ophthalmic maladies.

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PARIS & FORT WORTH, TX — Eyevensys, a biotechnology company developing non-viral gene therapies for retinal and other ophthalmic diseases, has completed a $30 million funding round.

The company will use the funds to continue development of its clinical lead candidate — known as EYS606 — for the treatment of chronic non-infectious uveitis, including the launch of its Electro Study, according to a press release. This Phase 2 trial, to be conducted in the U.S., will evaluate the safety and efficacy of the candidate in patients with active forms of all anatomic uveitis subtypes.

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The funding will also advance the preclinical development of the firm’s other therapeutic proteins targeting ophthalmic diseases with unaddressed medical needs, such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. A product candidate known as EYS606 is currently in a phase I/II clinical trial in the European Union and has been granted an Orphan drug designation by the European Medicines Agency for the treatment of non-infectious uveitis.

The new Series B financing round was led by Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund and included participation from existing investors Pontifax, Bpifrance, CapDecisif, and Inserm Transfert, as well as new investors, the Global Health Sciences Fund (Quark Venture LP and GF Securities) and Pureos Bioventures.

In conjunction with the financing, Eyevensys has added members to its board of directors. Neena Kadaba, PhD, director of science at Quark Venture LP, joined the board, as did Dominik Escher, PhD, managing partner at Pureos Bioventures and former founder and CEO of ESBATech, an ophthalmology biotech company acquired by Alcon in 2009.

Eyevensys has also recently opened a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary in Fort Worth, TX. All U.S. operations will be managed from this location, though the Eyevensys headquarters will remain in Paris.

Dr. Patricia Zilliox, Chief Executive Officer, said, “We are thrilled to have completed this Series B funding round with the strong support from both existing and new investors for the company. This funding will assist the further development of our technology and position Eyevensys as an innovator in the field of ophthalmology.”

She continued: “As we launch the Electro Study, our first U.S. clinical trial, Eyevensys will also have an opportunity to connect with ophthalmology opinion leaders in the U.S. to gain further exposure for our groundbreaking technology platform. This will also move the company one step closer to providing a more effective and convenient treatment approach to ease the burden of managing patients with chronic ocular conditions.”

As for technical specifics, the company states:

The Eyevensys technology is a non-viral gene therapy ocular drug delivery platform that uses an Electrotransfection System to deliver DNA plasmids encoding therapeutic proteins into the ciliary muscle. This turns the eye into a biofactory, allowing the ciliary muscle to express and secrete the therapeutic protein to the back of the eye at therapeutic levels for a duration of greater than 6 months.

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