A Closer Look at AMD

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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 60 and results from damage to the macula, the part of the eye responsible for central vision and seeing fine details clearly, with most cases occurring as part of the aging process. Jayashree Sahni, Translational Medicine Leader at Roche Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED), shares her insights on the disease, current treatment options and why more still needs to be done to address the unmet medical need associated with AMD.

What level of unmet need is associated with AMD?

The vast majority of patients with AMD have an early stage of the disease which may lead to the loss of some form of central vision over time. However, approximately 10% of people develop the advanced form of the disease known as neovascular AMD (also called wet AMD), which can result in sudden and severe central vision loss and accounts for approximately 90 percent of all AMD-related blindness.

With neovascular AMD making up the majority of people who experience serious vision loss in AMD, research efforts have focused on developing treatments for this stage of the disease.

What causes neovascular AMD?

Neovascular AMD begins when blood vessels form abnormally at the back of the eye through a process called angiogenesis. The blood vessels leak blood or fluid in the macula and form scars that cause central vision to deteriorate. Women tend to be at greater risk than men, and Caucasians are more likely to lose vision from AMD than African-Americans and Asian populations. Smoking, obesity and family history could also put a person at risk of AMD.

What treatments are available for AMD?

In the first instance it is really important that people have their eyes checked regularly.

Currently there is no treatment for early stage AMD. A combination of antioxidant Vitamins A, C, E and zinc, lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking and eating a healthy diet, may help reduce the risk of vision loss. Treatments are available for neovascular AMD and it is imperative to consult an ophthalmologist urgently, if any deterioration in vision is noticed.

What is Roche doing in AMD and ophthalmology is general?

Our research focus in ophthalmology encompasses AMD, diabetic macular oedema, diabetic retinopathy, geographic atrophy and glaucoma. At Roche pRED, we believe that exploring, understanding and addressing the biology that underpins a specific disease is crucial in being able to deliver medical solutions for patients.

I joined Roche because I saw there was a real commitment to develop medicines for eye diseases that cause significant visual loss and impairment to patients worldwide.