A Glaucoma Treatment Option With Global Promise

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Dominican Republic , Mexico , Topic: Discovery/Development , United States

[Note: This case study was originally published in 2009. Download a PDF or read the case study here.]

Ophthalmologists in the developed world use a variety of available options today to treat glaucoma, including pharmaceutical eye drops, laser procedures and surgery. In developing countries, where people have the highest risk of developing blindness from glaucoma, varied treatment options are almost nonexistent, leaving trabeculectomy — a complex procedure requiring a significant amount of surgical skill and follow-up care. A promising response to the plea for alternative treatments involves glaucoma drainage devices (GDDs), some of which are on the market, while others are being developed by large biomedical device companies and promise to offer reasonable safety and effectiveness for the control of intraocular eye pressure. One patented GDD is the Aquashunt™, a Yale University invention licensed with humanitarian terms to a leading ophthalmology business, OPKO Health Inc., which started conducting human clinical trials in South America in 2009. 

Lessons Learned:

  • License terms between academic and for-profit entities can be crafted to address global access for important medical technologies in a meaningful way.
  • Developed countries should assist the global health effort by funding the advancement of treatments exclusively targeted at those in resource-constrained settings.
  • Companies can successfully commercialize products in the large markets of the developed world to help support a sustainable solution for those in resource-constrained countries.
  • A company’s ability to use tiered pricing may be a valuable incentive.


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