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In The News/New Products

Optometry and Vision Science: March 2012 - Volume 89 - Issue 3 - p 366-369
doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e31824d88f7
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ACADEMY NEWS

Academy Scientific Program Submission Window Open May 1 to 31, 2012

This coming May papers and posters for the annual Academy meeting in Phoenix October 24 to 27, 2012, will be submitted for the Scientific Program. Submitting authors should access the Academy of Optometry home site (http://www.aaopt.org/) for details.

ORGANIZATION & INSTITUTION NEWS

“Optometry: Journal of the AOA” to Phase Out in 2012

In what came as a surprise to many, the President of AOA recently (mid-January, 2012) communicated this news to the AOA membership. In doing so, President Dori Carlson sent the following message:

“Dear AOA member

As anyone who follows media knows, there is an ongoing evolution—some would say revolution—in the way people get their news and information. Every day, we learn of major publications that are shifting to online presences, new technologies such as e-readers that help audiences interact with publications in new ways and social media tools that shape the media choices we make.

Seeking to keep the AOA at the forefront of those changes, and meet the needs of an evolving membership base, the AOA Board has examined our current publishing operation and decided to chart a new direction.

Beginning in February, Optometry: Journal of the AOA will be available online only. Manuscripts now in review will be published as online, open-access articles, linked from the AOA's main page. The January 2012 issue will be the last one printed and mailed to our members.

Like so many changes in publishing, this one is fast-moving and based on external and internal realities.

While the change is sudden, the realities of publishing costs and financial priorities have long been in place. Over the past decade, the AOA Board has regularly reviewed the costs of producing Optometry: Journal of the AOA. As postage and production costs continued to escalate, the calculus became less favorable. At a time when we faced a continuing decline in the Journal's readership and advertiser interest, this December we learned that all options for continued publishing came with dramatically increased costs.

The profession will continue to have Optometry and Vision Science. AOA Board members, including myself, have begun talks with the American Academy of Optometry to ensure professional research has a home and optometry's expertise in vision science and health maintains its preeminent position in the public. AOA will continue to highlight the profession's scholarship and interest in evidence-based care through our Clinical Practice Guidelines, the online education tool EyeLearn and expanded AOA News coverage of clinical issues.

The AOA has gained a great deal of traction in e-publishing. AOA First Look appears daily, and is read by more than 8,000 AOA members each day. The AOA News is read online as an animated pdf by 2,000 members and 6,700 members read the NewsfromAOA blog each month. These channels are very cost-effective, measureable and offer an immediacy that a peer-reviewed publication cannot offer. We plan to incorporate practice management and clinical information in the AOA News, bringing members clinically relevant information quickly and cost-effectively.

On behalf of the members of the AOA, the AOA Board and the vision care community, I want to thank Dr. Paul Freeman for his dedication, scholarship and craft in serving as the Editor of Optometry: Journal of the American Optometric Association. In the 13 years he has served as Editor, he has distinguished himself as a forceful voice for the profession and shaped the Journal into a publication of which we have been proud.

I also want to thank the members of the Journal Review Board, who review the manuscripts and contribute to advancing the profession's knowledge and stature, for their contributions.

We intend to publish already-submitted articles online-only over the coming months, to honor commitments to authors already made. It is our understanding that Elsevier will continue to host archived editions of the Journal at optometryjaoa.com as part of its commitment to subscribers.

This decision was a difficult one for the AOA Board to make. However, by freeing resources and offering the opportunity for new member benefits, we believe it is the right decision. We look forward to introducing new communications channels and keeping in touch with you whether through print publications, e-publications, AOAConnect, e-mail messages or at a meeting.

We invite you to be part of this process. Over the coming months we will be seeking your ideas about communications, asking what you want to see in the expanding AOA News and hosting discussions on AOA Connect about the future of communications. With your involvement, the changes to publishing will mean exciting new opportunities for participation and the advancement of your professional association.”

World Glaucoma Week (March 2012): “Don't Let Glaucoma Darken Your Life”

Colleagues are reminded that March 11 to 17 is World Glaucoma Week. As the World Glaucoma Society reminds us this is “Another year, another theme: Last year's theme, ‘Don't lose sight of your family,' was borrowed from Glaucoma Australia, which had used it to run several successful campaigns. To select a suitable theme for 2012, a poll was made among WGW coordinators, and several ideas came up. The top 3 were then proposed to the vote of the Paris 2011 World Glaucoma Congress participants, who were asked to cast their ballot in the World Glaucoma Association booth. The winning theme by far was ‘Don't Let Glaucoma Darken Your Life.’”

Optometrists and ophthalmologists are encouraged to:

  • Give a lecture to a patient support group.
  • Participate in radio and TV shows to talk about glaucoma and to answer questions.
  • Contact newspapers to publish information about glaucoma.

Optometry School Researcher at IU Hits the News

Donald Miller is a leading internationally established researcher in the School of Optometry at Indiana University. His team's recent research, published in the Optical Society's (OSA) open-access journal Biomedical Optics Express (2011; 3(1): 104, DOI: 10.1364/BOE.3.000104), was recently highlighted in Science News (ScienceDaily, December 20, 2011) as “Nanometer-Scale Growth of Cone Cells Tracked in Living Human Eye.” As they note, “Scientists believe that a better understanding of how and why the outer segment grows and shrinks will help medical researchers identify potential retinal problems. But the methods usually used to image the living human eye are not sensitive enough to measure these miniscule changes. Now, vision scientists at Indiana University in Bloomington have come up with a novel way to make the measurements in a living human retina by using information hidden within a commonly used technique called optical coherence tomography (OCT).”

They continue, “The team used … hidden phase information to measure microscopic changes in hundreds of cones, over a matter of hours, in two test subjects with normal vision. Researchers found they could resolve the changes in length down to about 45 nanometers, which is just slightly longer than the thickness of a single one of the stacked discs that make up the outer segment. The work shows that the outer segments of the cone cells grow at a rate of about 150 nanometers per hour, which is about 30 times faster than the growth rate of a human hair.”

Congress Finalizes FY2012 Appropriations with Decrease in Medical Research-Vision Funding

NAEVR reports “On Friday, December 16 in the House, and Saturday, December 17 in the Senate, Congress voted to adopt the conference agreement (H.R. 2055, H. Report 112–331) for a nine-bill Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 spending package that finalizes the appropriations process, including defense appropriations. The agreement funds the Peer Reviewed Medical Research-Vision (PRMR-Vision) program at $3.2 million, a 20 percent cut from the FY2011 funding level of $4 million. This cut applied to most Defense Health Programs, except for orthopedics and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) research. NAEVR had requested a funding level of $10 million and highlighted the need for this level of funding in featured articles in the October 10 editions of Military Times and U.S. Today. Recently, NAEVR announced that its Board of Directors had approved funding for a study of the lifetime costs to the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and society of blindness and vision impairment as a result of battlefield injuries. NAEVR plans to release the study in first-quarter 2012 for use in FY2013 advocacy.

Despite the cut, NAEVR is encouraged that vision researchers may receive more than $3.2 million once the FY2012 program is fully implemented. For example, despite the $4 million FY2011 appropriation, the DOD's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) is supporting at least $8.7 million of awards, due to additional funding made available by other DOD programs as a result of the past quality and responsiveness of vision research proposals.”

Changing Definition of Autism Changes Reported Prevalence?

According to an article in the New York Times (Carey, January 19), proposed changes in the definition, by an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, may reduce prevalence of diagnosis. Carey reports, in part, “For years, many experts have privately contended that the vagueness of the current criteria for autism and related disorders like Asperger syndrome was contributing to the increase in the rate of diagnoses—which has ballooned to one child in 100, according to some estimates.” Carey continues “The psychiatrists' association is wrestling with one of the most agonizing questions in mental health—where to draw the line between unusual and abnormal—and its decisions are sure to be wrenching for some families. At a time when school budgets for special education are stretched, the new diagnosis could herald more pitched battles. Tens of thousands of people receive state-backed services to help offset the disorders' disabling effects, which include sometimes severe learning and social problems, and the diagnosis is in many ways central to their lives. Close networks of parents have bonded over common experiences with children; and the children, too, may grow to find a sense of their own identity in their struggle with the disorder … The changes would narrow the diagnosis so much that it could effectively end the autism surge, said Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, director of the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine and an author of the new analysis of the proposal … Disagreement about the effect of the new definition will almost certainly increase scrutiny of the finer points of the psychiatric association's changes to the manual. The revisions are about 90 percent complete and will be final by December, according to Dr. David J. Kupfer, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and chairman of the task force making the revisions.”

We can expect to hear more news about this over the coming months prior to the December report!

Human Embryonic Stem Cells Improve Vision?

In a field, embryonic stem cell therapies, where there is lots of criticism and a number of controversies, failures, and disappointments, the New York Times (Andrew Pollack, January 23, 2012) highlighted a possible early breakthrough related to treating eye disease. Pollock notes, “The report, published online in the medical journal The Lancet, is the first to describe the effect on patients of a therapy involving human embryonic stem cells.

The paper comes two months after Geron Corporation, a stem cell industry pioneer, cast a pall over the field by abruptly halting the world's first clinical trial based on embryonic stem cells—one aimed at treating spinal cord injury. Geron, which has not published results from the aborted trial, also said it would abandon the entire stem cell field.

The results reported Monday could help lift some of that pall. They come from the second clinical trial involving the stem cells, using a therapy developed by the company Advanced Cell Technology to treat macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.”

Pollack says in part, “another reason to be cautious is that Advanced Cell Technology has had a reputation for publicizing its positive work, in part because it has often been on the brink of insolvency. The company's stock was up 6 percent to 15 cents a share Monday.

Advanced Cell's desire for publicity—its scientists are co-authors of the paper—could be one reason that the paper was published after only two patients out of a planned 24 were treated … the field has been controversial because the creation of the stem cells usually entails the destruction of human embryos.

In this case, researchers at Advanced Cell Technology turned embryonic stem cells into retinal pigment epithelial cells. Those cells help support the light detectors in the eye. Deterioration of these retinal cells can lead to damage to the macula, the central part of the retina, and to loss of the straight-ahead vision necessary to recognize faces, watch television or read … Some 50,000 of the cells were implanted last July under the retinas in one eye of each woman in surgeries that took about 30 minutes.”

One patient, in her 70s, has dry macular degeneration and the other, aged 51, has Stargardts disease.

Pollock himself is careful to report this story with cautionary comments and notes, “The trial is now continuing and expanding beyond U.C.L.A., and using gradually higher doses of cells. A patient with Stargardt's was implanted in London on Friday.” A report on the same research was published in the Scientist (Hannah Waters, January 24, 2012); it carried a similar hope and caution message that was expressed in the New York Times article, noting “the stem cell research company Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) published in The Lancet preliminary data from two human patients.”

In short, this research is in its early stages. Stay tuned!

Are We Ready for This? Many Are Ready, and Many Are Not

According to the New York Times (Robert Pear, January 16, 2012), “To head off medical conflicts of interest, the Obama administration is poised to require drug companies to disclose the payments they make to doctors for research, consulting, speaking, travel and entertainment. Many researchers have found evidence that such payments can influence doctors' treatment decisions and contribute to higher costs by encouraging the use of more expensive drugs and medical devices.

Consumer advocates and members of Congress say patients may benefit from the new standards, being issued by the government under the new health care law. Officials said the disclosures increased the likelihood that doctors would make decisions in the best interests of patients, without regard to the doctors' financial interests.

Large numbers of doctors receive payments from drug and device companies every year—sometimes into the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars—in exchange for providing advice and giving lectures. Analyses by the New York Times and others have found that about a quarter of doctors take cash payments from drug or device makers and that nearly two-thirds accept routine gifts of food, including lunch for staff members and dinner for themselves.

The Times has found that doctors who take money from drug makers often practice medicine differently from those who do not and that they are more willing to prescribe drugs in risky and unapproved ways, such as prescribing powerful antipsychotic medicines for children. Under the new standards, if a company has just one product covered by Medicare or Medicaid, it will have to disclose all its payments to doctors other than its own employees. The federal government will post the payment data on a Web site where it will be available to the public … Allan J. Coukell, a pharmacist and consumer advocate at the Pew Charitable Trusts, said: ‘Patients want to know they are getting treatment based on medical evidence, not a lunch or a financial relationship. They want to know if their doctor has a financial relationship with a pharmaceutical company, but they are often uncomfortable asking the doctor directly.’ In an introduction to the proposed rules, the Obama administration says that patients can benefit when doctors and the industry work together to develop life-saving drugs and devices. But, it said, these relationships can also ‘lead to conflicts of interests that may affect clinical decision-making’ and ‘threaten the underlying integrity of the health care system.’

The new standards carry out legislation championed by Senators Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, and Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin.”

INDUSTRY NEWS

Optometry Students Prefer to Enter Private Practice Ownership

In a VSP sponsored longitudinal survey, VSP reports that “72 percent of respondents during their third year in school preferred to start their careers through private practice ownership, but only fifteen percent of respondents became an Independent Eye Care Professional practice owner in their first year of practice.” Clearly both VSP and Essilor, who have collectively supported independent private practice of optometry through their loans programs, would like to help increase the numbers who practice that way. VSP's summary figures highlight both the opportunity and the challenges. They report:

  • 84% of third-year optometry students surveyed expects to own a private practice in the next 5 years.
  • During that same group's first year in practice, 58% of respondents expect to own a private practice in the next 5 years.
  • 85% of first-year optometrists surveyed earn $99,999 or less.
  • 76% of that same group carry $100,000 or more in debt.

For more information on the scholarships and Vision Loans Program provided by VSP, Essilor of America, and Vision One Credit Loans, visit: vspglobal.com.

It Is Almost a “Same Day Genome” Reading!

The Scientist recently reported (Megan Scudellari, January 13, 2012) “Two competing companies will soon offer machines capable of sequencing a human genome in 24 hours, rather than weeks or months. On Tuesday (January 10), Illumina Inc. and Life Technologies Corp. both announced the launch of their respective machines, each capable of speed-reading a genome in a single day. And Life Technologies' machine will do so for just $1,000 per genome, the company stated. ‘It's exciting,’ said John Weinstein, chair of bioinformatics and computational biology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, which currently uses Illumina machines in its core sequencing facility. ‘Often the scale of hours to days is critical, instead of weeks to months.’ In basic research, same day genomes will shorten the time from experiment to results, said Weinstein. In medicine, the technology could inform time-sensitive events, such as choosing a therapy for a cancer patient or identifying and combating an infectious disease.”

© 2012 American Academy of Optometry