Eli Lilly and Company as part of a continued commitment to innovation in the area of diabetes, announced today the creation of a strategic relationship with EyeTel Imaging, Inc. to improve screening and detection of diabetic retinopathy, one of the potentially devastating diabetic microvascular complications. The agreement, which expands the relationship between the two companies, will provide EyeTel with on-going operational support from Lilly, allowing EyeTel to provide primary care physicians access to state-of-the-art patient risk assessment tools and education programs.
Developed at Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, EyeTel’s Digiscope technology allows primary care physicians to perform simple eye risk assessments for diabetic retinopathy in the convenience of a routine office visit. The DigiScope takes digital photos of the back of the patient’s eye and sends the images via the Internet to the EyeTel-Wilmer reading center in Maryland, where the images are interpreted. Results are sent back to the primary care physician within 48 hours, and patients identified to have diabetic retinopathy are referred to an eye specialist for appropriate care.
"Awareness and screening are among the biggest barriers to appropriate diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy,” said Aniz Girach, M.D., senior global ophthalmologist at Lilly. "The Digiscope may be one of the tools to help us achieve our goal of having all people with diabetes screened annually to determine if they need further examination or treatment by an eye specialist."
Nearly half of all people with diabetes will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy, a disease of the small blood vessels of the retina. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of vision loss in adults of working age (20 to 65 years) in industrialized countries. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends annual eye screening for people with diabetes, but it is estimated that less than half comply with this recommendation. Availability of the DigiScope technology has the potential to significantly improve screening rates, and thus, earlier diagnosis and treatment.
"Despite improved treatments, millions of people with diabetes continue to suffer the consequences of the disease, including diabetic retinopathy," said Elizabeth Klimes, president of diabetes and growth disorders at Lilly. “Anything Lilly can do to help health care professionals identify and treat diabetic retinopathy is an important part of our mission."
"The key to providing proper care to people with diabetic retinopathy is early detection and treatment before the person sustains permanent damage and vision loss,” said Morton Goldberg, M.D., former chairman of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University. “The goal is to increase the number of people being assessed in the convenience of the primary care physicians' office, in order to improve compliance and ensure that patients with complications are seen by an ophthalmologist and receive appropriate treatment."
"We are excited to be partnering with the premier global company in diabetes care,” said Richard Turner, Ph.D., chairman and CEO of EyeTel. “Lilly’s history in diabetes brings us invaluable knowledge and their research into future treatments in the area of diabetes and diabetic microvascular complications is providing a renewed sense of optimism to the field." "We are confident that this relationship can improve the long-term standard of care for people with diabetes."
Currently, Lilly is conducting research to find new treatments for diabetic microvascular complications, including diabetic peripheral neuropathy (damage to the nerves), and diabetic retinopathy (including diabetic macular edema).