Public Release: 

Americans lack knowledge of ocular hypertension

Survey finds few aware of the condition, symptom profile or risk factors

Noonan/Russo Communications

June 13, 2002, Napa, CA - A national survey of 2,037 Americans sponsored by Santen Incorporated found that only 27% have heard of ocular hypertension, a generally symptomless condition that can be a precursor to glaucoma. Only 7% of those who were aware of ocular hypertension know that it has no symptoms. Additionally, only 29% of the group at increased risk for ocular hypertension -- those aged 40 and older - are aware of the condition or the need for regular screening.

"Estimates of the number of people in the U.S. suffering from ocular hypertension range from 3 to 6 million," explained Dr. Kuldev Singh, Director of the Glaucoma Service at Stanford University School of Medicine. "Since ocular hypertension is usually not associated with symptoms, most individuals with the condition are unaware that they have a problem. That's why individuals aged 40 and older should see their eye doctors for annual exams to determine if ocular hypertension is present and whether treatment is needed to decrease the risk of developing glaucoma."

Ocular hypertension is diagnosed in individuals with an intraocular pressure (IOP) higher than the 95th percentile for their population in the absence of optic nerve and visual field changes characteristic of glaucoma. When IOP is elevated, a person is at greater risk of developing glaucoma - a disease of the eye defined by optic nerve damage, leading to visual impairment. In the Santen-sponsored survey, only 41% could identify ocular hypertension among a list of factors that increase the risk of glaucoma.

Only 19% of those surveyed from the 40-plus age group know that they should be routinely screened for ocular hypertension. Additionally, 41% of those surveyed in the same group had not been tested for ocular hypertension or glaucoma in the past year. Eye care professionals can easily test for both conditions using a variety of devices that measure the level of intraocular pressure as well as optic nerve structure and function.

Beta-blockers, a class of medicines frequently used for lowering blood pressure in cardiovascular patients, have been the most commonly used agents in the first line of treatment for ocular hypertension over the past 20 years. These agents, which decrease the rate of aqueous humor production, thereby lowering intraocular pressure, are generally very well tolerated with regard to ocular side effects when used in eye drop form.

"Beta-adrenergic antagonists are appropriate in the treatment of ocular hypertension in many patients with the condition," stated Dr. Singh. "I have found BETIMOLÒ is often an excellent choice in such patients that require IOP lowering. Besides being better studied than generic preparations, BETIMOL is generally well priced, especially in comparison with other branded topical beta-blockers."

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The survey was sponsored by Santen Incorporated, the U.S. subsidiary of Santen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. Santen's BETIMOL (timolol ophthalmic solution) 0.25%, 0.5% is a beta-blocker (non-selective beta-adrenergic antagonist) medication indicated for the treatment of elevated IOP in patients with ocular hypertension or open-angle glaucoma. BETIMOL is the only branded formulation of timolol hemihydrate, a topically applied ophthalmic beta-blocker. Its efficacy and safety have been shown to be equivalent to the leading product in the beta-blocker category. BETIMOL is favorably priced compared to other branded beta-blockers and can be dosed one-drop-a-day once IOP is controlled.

BETIMOL is contraindicated in patients with overt heart failure, cardiogenic shock, sinus bradycardia, second-or third-degree atrioventricular block, bronchial asthma or history of bronchial asthma, severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or hypersensitivity to any component of this product. The most commonly reported ocular side effect was stinging and burning.

A pharmaceutical company founded in Osaka, Japan in 1890, Santen specializes in treatments for eye and rheumatic diseases, offering both prescription and OTC products. Among prescription ophthalmic pharmaceuticals, Santen holds the top share within the Japanese market and is one of the leading ophthalmic companies worldwide. Santen has subsidiaries in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Santen's U.S. subsidiary, Santen Incorporated, began operations in 1993.

The survey results are based on telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 2,037 Americans aged 18 or older. The margin of error for the total sample of 2,037 is plus or minus 2%. For the sample of 1,242 aged 40 and older, the margin of error is plus or minus 3%. The survey was conducted by CARAVANÒ ORC INTERNATIONAL for Santen Incorporated.

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