Some say that there are only two certainties in life: "death and taxes." Joseph Dello Russo, M.D., a prominent LASIK surgeon would suggest another: the need for wearing reading glasses after forty, a condition doctors call Presbyopia.
Dr. Dello Russo has aligned himself with a team of researches who in the past have developed some of the most important advances in LASIK. They are now hard at work with what may be a most promising treatment for Presbyopia using a simple LASIK-like procedure to restore reading ability, known as accommodation.
"Restoring reading after the age of forty is the last frontier in laser surgeons' quest to rid people of eyeglasses," says Herman Sloane, M.D., a successful LASIK surgeon in Chicago. "I believe the potential is huge, since there are at least 100 million Americans wearing reading glasses who may be willing to have the procedure as long as it is both safe and effective. This could be an even larger market than LASIK encompassing the baby boomers who potentially have more disposable income."
Dello Russo, who played a prominent role in the clinical trials as a former FDA researcher by helping to develop and improve the laser surgery procedure now known as LASIK, explains that the new approach for treating Presbyopia will be designed to restore the eye's focusing ability, utilizing a unique laser technology.
Many of the same scientists and ophthalmologists who played significant roles in developing LASIK are again involved in this new research. Dello Russo feels that this experienced team of scientists may have the best opportunity of conquering the "last frontier in ridding people of glasses."
According to recent statistics presented by Shariff Mondavi, an industry analyst writing in this month's Review of Ophthalmology, LASIK is the most popular elective surgical procedure in the U.S. LASIK treats nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, conditions which
interfere with distance vision and which unlike Presbyopia, do not occur in all of the population. Of those who could benefit from the LASIK procedure, approximately 5% have chosen to undergo this procedure in the decade since LASIK was introduced. Presbyopia occurs in everyone, so eventually, any person can be a potential customer.
Financial analyst, Gary Hager of Manalopin, New Jersey and Palm Beach, Florida, states, "Wall Street would love to embrace a technology that could create an entirely new industry." However this will not come cheaply. He believes that as much as $75 million will be needed to bring this technology to market. This type of company (LenSar) with its potential for high growth and huge earnings makes it very attractive. The Street knows that it's less expensive in the long run to finance a new company with great potential in its early developmental stages than for major industry players to buy in at the top after it is a success.
Advanced Medical Optics recently purchased VISX, Inc. for $1.2 billion, and more recently Intralace for $808 million. "A cure for Presbyopia could be a billion dollar industry and the growth potential is enormous, if successful," says Hager.
Dr. Dello Russo says, "There are no guarantees that this laser technology will work. It will take at least five years to bring this through the FDA approval process. However in 1990, we had no guarantees that laser vision correction (LASIK) would succeed. Now it is a multi-billion dollar industry. We are encouraged so far with the results of the animal studies as we move on to the human trials, we think that this team of smart and experienced scientists has the best chance of succeeding," says Dr Dello Russo.
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