Wet AMD is a condition that can lead to vision loss if left untreated1. Supported by the Macular Society, the See What’s Next campaign empowers and equips the wet AMD community to better manage the disease and maintain independence for longer
Website hosts practical tips and tools to support people living with AMD and those who care for them manage daily life with the condition
Data reveals drop in referrals and attendance of wet AMD eye appointments during COVID-19 pandemic2,3, making it essential that people with wet AMD take an active role in managing their disease so they can continue doing the things they love for longer
London, UK. 00:01 BST, 31 March 2021 – Novartis, in collaboration with the Macular Society, today launched See What’s Next, a disease awareness campaign to empower people living with wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) to take an active role in the management of their disease so they can maintain their independence for longer. In the UK, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of avoidable sight loss4, with nearly 40,000 people developing the ‘wet’ form – or wet AMD – every year5, which worsens over time and can lead to vision loss if left untreated1.
Wet AMD usually affects people aged 50 and over, and many living with the disease have other significant medical conditions5,6, which can cause increased vulnerability to COVID-19. During the pandemic, injections for eye conditions such as wet AMD, which can cause severe visual loss if not treated, were deemed essential and despite many ophthalmologists continuing to provide onsite and telemedicine care, people living with wet AMD missed essential support services2,3. Since the start of the pandemic, scheduled and attended eye appointments are down by approximately a third (30% and 36% respectively) compared to 20192. Additionally, a report, published as a pre-print and awaiting peer review, from some of the largest clinics in the country has showed that during the initial peak of the pandemic in April 2020, the number of new wet AMD referrals fell by 72% on average and up to a quarter (25%) of people with known wet AMD did not attend their treatment appointment3.
Feelings of anxiety and fear brought about by the pandemic7, as well as a need to shield3 along with changes in the AMD services, are some of the key reasons thousands of people have missed or cancelled their eye appointments2,3.
“Treatment is vital to slowing the progression of wet AMD and to help people living with the condition to maintain as much vision as possible, so whether it’s for emergency advice, monitoring or treatment, it’s important to attend all essential eye appointments,” said Robin Hamilton, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Macular Society Trustee. “I want to assure patients that measures have been implemented to ensure our clinics are safe, so people should come forward for their checks and treatment when called to do so. I would encourage people living with AMD and their carers to make use of resources such as those featured on the See What’s Next website to help them with day-to-day living and how to monitor any changes in vision from home.”
With the launch of See What’s Next, Novartis with the support of the Macular Society, is sharing practical information to help people with wet AMD manage daily activities and look out for signs of disease progression at home, as well as providing tips and tools for preparing for in-person and virtual appointments with their eye specialist.
“Vision loss caused by wet AMD can have a devastating impact on people living with the disease and their friends and family. It makes everyday activities such as reading and recognising faces more difficult and presents unique challenges that can be life-altering and isolating,” said Cathy Yelf, Chief Executive of the Macular Society. “During this particularly difficult period in which many have been shielding and possibly missing appointments, we’re excited to support Novartis with the launch of See What’s Next. We hope it will help people with wet AMD to navigate life with this chronic condition, in lockdown and beyond.”
The See What’s Next website (seewhatsnext.co.uk) provides practical resources to help people living with wet AMD and the friends or family who care for them better manage their condition, from tips on daily living, such as adaptations to make in the home, to advice for preparing and staying safe at appointments. The website also hosts a short questionnaire, which based on responses produces a tailored discussion guide including prompts to help patients maximise the time with their eye specialist at virtual or in-person appointments.
“It’s more important than ever for people living with wet AMD to have access to information and resources to enable meaningful conversations with their eye specialist,” said Chinmay Bhatt, Managing Director UK, Ireland & Nordics for Novartis Pharmaceuticals. “We are proud to be reimagining how people living with wet AMD and those who care for them are supported, even during these exceptional times, so they can be better prepared for daily life with their disease and continue to do the things they love for longer.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
About See What’s Next
See What’s Next is a Novartis disease awareness campaign which has been developed with the support of the Macular Society. The campaign aims to empower people living with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and their caregivers to take an active role in the management of the condition and maintain their independence for longer, by providing tips and tools to help them facilitate a more meaningful conversation with their eye specialist. The See What’s Next website (seewhatsnext.co.uk) hosts a range of resources, including information about wet AMD and how to monitor its progression, discussion guides for patients to use during appointments with their eye specialist, tips and tricks on how to stay independent in the home, and real-life perspectives from people living with the disease.
People living with any form of macular degeneration can find further information, tailored advice and emotional support by contacting the Macular Society on 0300 3030 111 or at www.macularsociety.org.
About wet age-related macular degeneration
Macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK4 and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common type. There are two types of AMD, known as ‘dry’ and ‘wet’. Up to 40,000 people develop wet AMD in the UK each year5. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the macula, the area of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision6,8. These blood vessels are fragile and leak fluid, disrupting the normal retinal architecture and ultimately causing damage to the macula1,8.
Early symptoms of wet AMD include distorted vision (or metamorphopsia) and difficulties seeing objects clearly8,9. Prompt diagnosis and intervention are essential8,10. As the disease progresses, cell damage increases, further reducing vision quality. This progression can lead to a complete loss of central vision, leaving the patient unable to read, drive, or recognise familiar faces and potentially depriving them of their independence6,8. Without prompt treatment, vision can rapidly deteriorate11.
About Novartis in ophthalmology
At Novartis, our mission is to discover new ways to improve and extend people's lives. In ophthalmology, we develop and deliver life-changing medicines and therapies for diseases and conditions from front to back of the eye, enabled by data and transformative technologies. Our ophthalmic solutions reach more than 150M people per year.
Novartis is reimagining medicine to improve and extend people’s lives. As a leading global medicines company, we use innovative science and digital technologies to create transformative treatments in areas of great medical need. In our quest to find new medicines, we consistently rank among the world’s top companies investing in research and development. Novartis products reach nearly 800 million people globally and we are finding innovative ways to expand access to our latest treatments. About 110,000 people of more than 140 nationalities work at Novartis around the world. Find out more at www.novartis.com
In the UK, we employ approximately 1,300 people to serve healthcare needs across the whole of the UK, as well as supporting the global operations of Novartis. Since 2014, Novartis has invested over £200 million in R&D and is the single largest industry sponsor of clinical trials in the UK. For more information, please visit www.novartis.co.uk
Thomas D.S., et al. Estimating excess visual loss in people with neovascular age-related macular degeneration during the COVID-19 pandemic. medRxiv 2020.06.02.20120642; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.06.02.20120642.
Quartilho, A et al. Leading causes of certifiable visual loss in England and Wales during the year ending 31 March 2013. Eye vol. 30(4), 602-607. 2016.