Second Sight Medical Products announced that the publicly-funded NHS system will fund blind patients with RP to receive treatment with the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System “bionic eye." The announcement comes following a positive recommendation from advisors to the UK Government’s health care funding authority for specialized services in England.
NHS England has announced that a selective group of severely blind patients with retinitis pigmentosa can have access to Argus II, the world’s first and only routinely used treatment for severe blindness. There will be two implantation centers: the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital in the north of England, and in the south, London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital. The hospitals and Second Sight will also provide follow up, rehabilitation and support to patients receiving an Argus II implant.
Argus II will be funded via the Commissioning through Evaluation (CtE) program. The CtE program is especially designed for treatments that show significant promise for the future, while new clinical and patient experience data are collected within a formal evaluation program. Argus II is already reimbursed under a similar “coverage with evidence development” program in France called “Forfait Innovation” where patients have benefitted from the Argus II treatment.
“This is a major milestone for Second Sight because we are the only company able to demonstrate a favorable long-term benefit-to-risk statement up to five years after implantation for some RP patients," Will McGuire, President and CEO of Second Sight, said in a company news release. "NHS England is known to be under significant financial pressure and also extremely selective in adopting innovative technologies – which must demonstrate sufficient value for money. We expect that this decision will be observed throughout the world by other health care agencies.”
Professor Paulo Stanga from Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, University of Manchester and Manchester Vision Regeneration (MVR) Lab at NIHR/Wellcome Trust Manchester Clinical Research Facility, who has played a crucial role bringing the ‘bionic eye’ to patients at the NHS, said, “I’m delighted that our pioneering research has provided the evidence to support NHS England’s decision to fund the ‘bionic eye’ for the first time. I have seen first-hand how beneficial and life changing this technology has been to RP patients who are completely blind. We live in a visual world, so it is reassuring and life affirming for a person who is completely blind to regain some basic vision. This is a wonderful decision. For patients’ families, it is also a life-enhancing treatment, because it can mean less dependence for their loved ones.”
Professor Lyndon da Cruz, MD, PhD, Consultant Retinal Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, who, with Prof. Stanga, has been championing NHS funding of the treatment for more than 5 years, said: “For patients with RP who have profound vision loss, the long-term benefits of the Argus II in restoring some useful vision may be life-changing. Perhaps most exciting is the potential ability of the Argus II to increase patients’ functional vision. With the Argus II, some patients can perform tasks that would not be possible without the device. Our work at Moorfields has shown that these changes last for many years after implantation for some patients and represent a stable, effective treatment for them. This funding underlines the Government’s ambition to position the UK as a global leader in medical innovation.”
Second Sight continues its work with the aim to restore vision to patients with every type of untreatable blindness. Its UK research on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) continues. In 2015, the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital in England fitted several AMD patients with implants. This illness is more complex than RP. In the US, Second Sight is working with UCLA, recently performing the successful implantation and activation of a wireless visual cortical stimulator in a human subject.