To educate patients on the disease, the company has enlisted the help of actor Eric Stonestreet and his mother, Jamey.
In an effort to increase awareness of geographic atrophy (GA), a form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) that causes irreversible vision loss, Iveric Bio, an Astellas company, is kicking off its More to See campaign.
Chris Simms, senior vice president and chief commercial officer of Iveric Bio, said a key to the campaign is to help spread the word.
“It is a terrible disease that has never had any treatments for it,” he said. “Many patients don't know they have it. They go undiagnosed until it's often affecting their vision. I think that's a big part of why we're doing what we're doing with our campaign around More to See and the website AskAboutGA.com to help spread that awareness.”
GA currently affects approximately 1.5 million people in the United States, and only 1 in 4 people have been diagnosed.1-2 Initially, it starts to develop with subtle symptoms such as seeing washed-out colors, straight lines that look wavy or crooked, or even no symptoms at all.3 As it advances, GA can interfere with day-to-day tasks, which could cause difficulty driving, reading, and recognizing faces.4
“Early diagnosis is really important,” Simms explained. “Early awareness is really important. There is such an unmet need for geographic atrophy and that is at the core of why we are embarking on this.”
Simms noted that Iveric Bio recently announced a partnership with Emmy-award winning actor Eric Stonestreet to raise awareness about GA. Stonestreet and his mother, Jamey, are sharing how GA and AMD has affected their family to inspire others to learn about the disease and be proactive around their eye health as part of the campaign.
Stonestreet has had a firsthand view of how GA can rob a person of their sight. His maternal grandmother, Helen, lived with significant vision loss due to her AMD and was later diagnosed with GA. Though she faced challenges due to her symptoms, she persevered with an incredible support system and great sense of humor, which inspired her family tremendously. Eric’s mother, Jamey, was also diagnosed with AMD, and she is determined to keep her independence by doing everything she can to preserve her vision.
“After watching how quickly my grandma Helen’s vision loss progressed, my family and I are motivated to prioritize our eye health,” the actor said in a statement. “Knowing that GA runs in the family is why I am proactive about seeing my doctor for regular eye exams, and my mom regularly visits her eye doctor to stay on top of her AMD.”
More to See is a disease education branded campaign with a wide range of components on its website.
“The campaign is primarily digital, so you'll see content in digital avenues, including Facebook, Instagram, a little bit on LinkedIn, and our website,” he said. “We also will go through our PR effort. We are primarily engaged in getting the word out and working with someone of Eric's profile and the fact that he has a personal familial connection to the disease helps tremendously.”
Stonestreet, who starred for 11 years as Cam on “Modern Family,” brings more than just his fame to the campaign. There is a personal angle that will resonate as a part of the educational campaign.
“The compassion that he has with his mother's story is the perfect combination,” Simms said. “It touches on a couple of elements that are really important. One, Eric is a well known person, very successful actors who as we all know. It is not just his celebrity appeal, it's important is the fact that he has a personal connection to the disease.”
It is that connection Simms said will help elevate the campaign.
“When you see him and his mom together, you can tell that they feel passionately about this, like they understand the need to create awareness, they need to spread the spread education on the importance of taking care of your eye health,” he said.
That awareness education can include making sure patients know the importance of regular checkups and talking to their ophthalmologist about their vision.
“Like many, but this disease in particular largely affects an older patient population,” Simms said. “The care for these patients often involves a lot of support from their caregivers as well be a spouse, family member or friend. So with the work with Jamey, and Eric, we not only get the personal connection to the disease, but we also get to talk about the important role that caregivers play in the treatment and the management.”
Ophthalmologists and all eyecare providers, can access More to See resources online.
“These resources are unbranded and are intended for the education about the disease,” Simms explained. “So an ophthalmologist can take advantage of those resources and provide them to their patients in their practice, should they choose to do so.”
Simms added that a key focus will be to increase GA awareness over time, and to reduce the number of people going undiagnosed with the disease.
“The unmet need is key,” he said. “There are 1.5 million people estimated to be undiagnosed and I think that is underestimated. This disease moves faster than most people think, with many believing incorrectly that it's a slow moving disease.”
While GA can progress slowly for some, many patients will experience vision issues sooner and Simms noted 2 out of 3 patients diagnosed will see an impact on their vision within 2 years of diagnosis.
“I think a lot of the future impact of this disease is going to come down to a lot of patients and their eye care providers having conversations about what the disease is, what the
effect of disease will be over time and the importance of monitoring and for the right patients,” Simms concluded. “This includes stressing the importance of treatment. So as much as we can help reiterate that and create urgency to have a conversation with your eye care provider about the disease, then that's our primary objective.”
1. Jaffe GJ, et al. C5 inhibitor avacincaptad pegol for geographic atrophy due to age-related macular degeneration. Ophthalmology. 2021;128(4):576-586.
3. Colijn JM, et al. Enlargement of geographic atrophy from first diagnosis to end of life. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2021;139(7):743-750.
4. The American Society of Retina Specialists. Age-Related Macular Degeneration. www.asrs.org/patients/retinal-diseases/2/agerelated-macular-degeneration.
5. Burguera-Giménez N, García-Lázaro S, España-Gregori E, et al. Multimodal Evaluation of Visual Function in Geographic Atrophy versus Normal Eyes. Clinical Ophthalmology. 2020;14:1533-1545.