Vision community unites to observe WGD on Capitol Hill

March 12, 2009

Washington, DC-To recognize the second annual World Glaucoma Day (WGD), the Association for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) sponsored a March 10 Capitol Hill briefing to educate Members of Congress and their staffs.

Washington, DC-To recognize the second annual World Glaucoma Day (WGD), the Association for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) sponsored a March 10 Capitol Hill briefing to educate Members of Congress and their staffs. The event was timely, as the Senate was passing the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Omnibus appropriations bill, which increases National Eye Institute (NEI) funding by $21.4 million over FY2008. That annual spending increase, coupled with the $175 million in 2-year funding for NEI research from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, means nearly $200 million more for vision research.

In introducing the briefing, AEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky read from a March 6 statement issued by the NEI for WGD in which its Director Paul Sieving, MD, PhD, noted that NEI currently spends $65 million in support of 168 glaucoma studies, including the newly initiated NEI Glaucoma Human genetics collaBORation, known as NEIGHBOR, through which seven U.S. research teams will lead genetic studies of the disease.

The featured speakers included Murray Fingeret, OD, (Brooklyn/St. Albans Campus, Department of Veterans Administration New York Harbor Health Care System), who spoke about the incidence and burden of the disease, and Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, (Doheny Eye Institute, University of Southern California), who spoke about research and treatments. Both speakers participated in a March 2008 joint NEI/Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Glaucoma Endpoints meeting at which researchers acknowledged that glaucoma is a complex, neurodegenerative disease in which detectable changes within the eye may not progress linearly or in concert with functional changes, that is, vision loss.

AEVR was joined by the American Glaucoma Society (AGS), the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF), and The Glaucoma Foundation (TGF) in sponsoring the briefing. TGF President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Christensen announced that his organization and the Congressional Glaucoma Caucus would assist the World Glaucoma Association with a March 11 glaucoma screening event at the United Nations in New York City, conducted by a dozen eye specialists from The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (NYEE). The Capitol Hill and UN events are just two of the many hundreds of events being held around the globe during the week in recognition of WGD.


"Glaucoma prevalence in the U.S. is 2.2 million individuals and approaching 60 million individuals globally," said Murray Fingeret, OD. "However, anywhere from 50% to 75% of individuals with glaucoma are undiagnosed, as it often has no symptoms until vision is lost."



"Researchers are studying the genetic basis of glaucoma and using genes to determine a potential response to medical treatment, that is, prior to treating, knowing how a drug is going to work," said Rohit Varma, MD, MPH.



From left: featured speakers Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, and Murray Fingeret, OD, with Rep. John Boozman (R-AR), who sponsored the Military Eye Trauma Treatment Act that created within the Department of Defense the Vision Center of Excellence and Military Eye Trauma Injury Registry.



The Glaucoma Foundation's Scott Christensen updates attendees on the glaucoma screening event that was to take place March 11 at the United Nations in New York. (Photos courtesy of James Jorkasky)

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