The American company Second Sight Medical Products just won a huge reimbursement deal with the German Institute for the Hospital Remuneration System . Germany's decision, announced to the public February 2nd, allows all state-approved hospitals to seek reimbursement for blind Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) patients who need Second Sight's Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System. German hospitals will be allowed to negotiate this reimbursement coverage with nearly 100 percent of the German health insurance providers.
The Argus II System was designed to bypass dead retinal cells and energize any healthy eye cells via an electric current. A very tiny video camera is placed on the patient's glasses that takes in external visual stimulation and translates the images into electronic vibrations. These pulses are then sent into electronic implants in the patient's eyes wirelessly. Although it may not restore a patient's vision to 20/20, the Argus II System can greatly improve a blind RP patient's vision after repeated session.
For those who don't know, RP is an inherited eye disease that can cause blindness if left untreated for a long period of time. As the name suggests, RP destroys the eyes retina. Many people experience the first symptoms of RP at an early age. There are currently around 30,000 cases of RP in Germany, 167,000 in the EU, and 200,000 cases in the USA.
Second Sight was extremely pleased to hear the news from German authorities at the start of February. Will McGuire, the current President and CEO of Second Sight, told reporters that the Second Sight team looks "forward to collaborating with leaders in the ophthalmic and patient community" to give quality care to RP patients in Germany.
This major deal with Germany follows on the heels of another deal Second Sight reached with the UK last year. On December 22nd, 2016, the UK Government said it would allow the use of Argus II to blind RP patients through the National Health Service (NHS). Both the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and the Moorfields Eye Hospital of London now have Argus II Systems.
In addition to the UK and Germany, access to the Argus II System is reimbursed in France. This reimbursement plan is handled by France's "Forfait Innovation" program.
The Argus II was first tested in 2006 as a part of a two-patient pilot study in Mexico. After this test proved successful, the Argus II System was put to the test in a 30-patient trial in 10 European and American medical centers. Currently, the Argus II System can be used in medical centers in countries like Turkey, Switzerland, the UK, the USA, France, Italy, and Saudi Arabia.
Prior to the Argus II, Second Sight worked on the Argus I System. The Argus I was first tested in 2002 in a 6-subject trial.
Second Sight was founded in 1998 in the Sylmar region of San Fernando Valley, California. Dr. Sam Williams, Gunnar Bjorg, and Mr. Alfred Mann founded this company to design products specifically for patients with retinal prosthesis. There are now over 85 people working for the company both in Sylmar and Lausanne, Switzerland. Second Sight is publicly traded on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol EYES.