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Vision Benefits Company Names CEO

He’d been serving as interim chief.

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PITTSBURGH — Vision Benefits of America has named Jeff A. Hollowood as its president and CEO.

He’d been serving as VBA’s interim president and CEO since March 2018.

“I am excited to take a more permanent leadership role at VBA,” Hollowood said. “I look forward to working closely with our business partners and internal team to further our mission of improving the human experience by utilizing innovative models of service, delivery and advocacy to reduce barriers to high-quality eye care.”

Hollowood served on the VBA Board of Directors in 2012 following nearly a decade of experience in civil litigation, business law, real estate law and regulatory compliance. After serving as chairman of VBA’s audit and finance committee, in 2015, he resigned from the board and became the company’s general counsel. He was appointed corporate secretary in 2016.

“Jeff’s knowledge of the vision industry and VBA makes him well suited for this role,” said Dr. Karen E. Rule, chairman of the VBA board. “Jeff will be an asset to VBA as we embark on the next phase of our strategic plan. His leadership skills, innovation and vision will ensure VBA is in the best position for future success.”

Founded in 1965 as one of the first preferred provider organizations in the country, VBA offers group vision benefits to corporations, municipalities, schools, health and welfare funds, hospitals and health maintenance organizations.

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Ophthalmologists Hope to Undo State Law That Allows ODs to Perform Eye Surgery

They’re attempting a ballot referendum.

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A movement is afoot in Arkansas to undo recently passed state legislation that allows optometrists to perform certain surgeries.

It’s being led by Safe Surgery Arkansas, a group of medical doctors, Talk Business & Politics reports. They hope to use a ballot referendum to accomplish their goal.

R. Scott Lowery, president of the Arkansas Ophthalmological Society, was 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.”

The legislation was signed into law in March. The procedures that it 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.

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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.

Vicki Farmer, executive director of the Arkansas Optometry Association, was quoted noting that Arkansas legislators “overwhelmingly approved this measure during the recent session, after listening to hours of testimony and debate, and learning optometrists in other states, like Oklahoma, have been safely performing these procedures for more than 20 years.”

Read more at Talk Business & Politics

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Eye Doctors Can Play a Key Role in Diagnosing Gut Disease

About 3.1 million people in the U.S. have IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

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Optometrists can play an important role in helping patients who have inflammatory bowel disease, the American Optometric Association reports.

Inflammatory bowel disease can cause symptoms in the eye, which ODs can detect during during comprehensive eye examinations, according to a newly released AOA Health Policy Institute brief.

“Given that comprehensive eye examinations can lead to earlier, definitive diagnosis of IBD, patient outcomes improve with earlier treatment,” AOA reports.

“The clinical manifestations of common inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are not restricted to the gastrointestinal tract,” according to the Health Policy Institute brief. “IBDs have impact to other organs in a significant number of patients, including the eyes in 72.1 percent of patients with IBDs.”

The brief links IBD’s inflammation to a variety of ophthalmic conditions, including:

  • Episcleritis
  • Scleritis
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye)
  • Retinal edema
  • Optic neuritis (swelling of the optic nerve)
  • Extraocular muscle nerve palsies.

According to the brief, about 3.1 million people in the U.S. have IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

“Evaluation of the eye should be a routine component of care in patients with IBD just as it is with similar chronic co-morbid systemic conditions like diabetes,” according to the paper.

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Eye Health Firm Acquired in $800M Deal

The acquisition focuses on treatments for inherited retinal disorders.

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CAMBRIDGE, MA — Biogen announced that it has completed its acquisition of Nightstar Therapeutics, a clinical-stage gene therapy company focused on treatments for inherited retinal disorders.

As a result of the acquisition, Biogen now has added two mid- to late-stage clinical assets, as well as preclinical programs, in ophthalmology, according to a press release.

The transaction value was about $800 million. Nightstar’s common stock will no longer be listed for trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market.

Nightstar is developing adeno-associated virus treatment. Its lead asset is NSR-REP1 for the treatment of choroideremia, a rare degenerative, X-linked inherited retinal disorder that leads to blindness and has no approved treatments. Initially, patients with choroideremia experience poor night vision, and over time progressive visual loss leads to complete blindness.

NSR-RPGR is Nightstar’s second clinical program for the treatment of X-linked retinitis pigmentosa, which is also a rare inherited retinal disease primarily affecting males with no approved treatments. The disease leads to loss of photoreceptor cells, resulting in retinal dysfunction by adolescence and early adulthood, progressing to legal blindness when patients reach their 40s.

“Today marks a significant achievement for Biogen,” said Michel Vounatsos, Biogen’s CEO. “The acquisition of Nightstar further bolsters our pipeline and is an important step forward toward our goal of a multi-franchise portfolio across complementary modalities. We look forward to working now as one Biogen team with the goal of bringing breakthrough therapies to patients to slow or halt blindness across a range of inherited retinal diseases.”

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