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Our Commitment to Eye Care Innovation, Awareness and Education

As a society, we highly prize our sight – perhaps more so than speech, hearing or even memory. In fact a recent survey published in JAMA Ophthalmology found 47 percent said losing their sight would have the most effect on their daily life, ranking vision loss as equal to or worse than losing hearing, memory or speech.

While we value our sight, many of us don’t take appropriate care of our eyes. According to the CDC, only half of the estimated 61 million U.S. adults at high-risk for vision loss visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months.  People falsely assume that if they can see then their eyes must be healthy.   That’s not always the case and that perspective needs to change.

And, the challenges we face from eye conditions are growing. It is estimated that more than 142 million adults in the U.S. experience vision problems ranging from blindness and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) to cataracts and glaucoma. In the U.S., as many as 30 million people have signs and symptoms of chronic dry eye. By 2020 80 million people will have glaucoma and 196 million people will be diagnosed with AMD worldwide.

Awareness and education to preserve vision is critical. Today, Allergan is joining the global eye care community to recognize World Sight Day. Eye care professionals, advocates, innovators, and patients are joining together to raise awareness and find ways to prevent, treat and cure blindness and vision impairment. In a recent blog, I introduced our Social Contract for Patients. It recognizes that the Contract begins where there is a patient and an unmet need. This is that moment in eye care.

Allergan is committed to helping address these challenges. It’s in our DNA. We were founded in 1948 and our first product was for eye care. As a leader in eye care with a nearly 70 year history, we have invested -- and will continue to invest -- billions and billions of dollars in new treatments for the most difficult eye conditions, including glaucoma, chronic dry eye, AMD and retinitis pigmentosa. Our eye care R&D pipeline has never been stronger or more innovative. But our efforts in supporting education and awareness have been equally impactful. 

Through efforts with advocacy groups and the Allergan Foundation, we have provided direct support for education and awareness initiatives for more than 150 organizations around the world. Allergan has helped to support the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s One Network, the Academy’s global platform for ophthalmic education, which helps ophthalmologists stay up-to-date on clinical data and treatment approaches. Allergan also provides education resources like our Optometry Jumpstart program, where we support more than 7,000 optometry students and graduates providing innovative medical education programs and professional development.

In 2015 the Allergan Foundation provided a $1.5 million grant to the University College London to support educating ophthalmologists, many from the developing world. This grant has allowed the University to transform its training, providing access to more students than ever before.  Allergan has also supported a number of patient awareness initiatives, aimed at helping people take a more active role in caring for their eye sight. These include mobile or community vision clinics and community outreach by Columbia University in New York, Schepens Eye Research Institute at Harvard, St. Jude Neighborhood Clinics, Cincinnati Eye Institute and Phillips Eye Institute Foundation’s Early Youth Eye Care Initiative, just to name a few.

Addressing the challenges of eye health has never been more important. Innovation, education and awareness are all key parts of the effort.  On this World Sight Day, Allergan recommits itself to its leadership role in this effort. I call on all people who prize their sight to take their eye care more seriously and others in the healthcare ecosystem to help address the challenges the eye care community faces. 

Sight should not be taken for granted.

Let’s start World Sight Day by scheduling that long overdue visit with an eye care specialist.

My annual check-up is a few months away.