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April 25, 2008 Ophthalmic Panel Meeting PDF Print E-mail

Video Testimony on LASIK, Depression, and Suicide From the April 25th, 2008 Special Hearing of the FDA's Ophthalmic Devices Panel

"The FDA's capacity to oversee the refractive surgery industry is in my opinion no different than the doctors who have tarnished it. The FDA has been ineffective in overseeing investigational studies, ineffective in enforcing the policies mandated for the industry, and ineffective in providing thus far the protection that many of us here today should have had." - As stated in my presentation (below).

On April 25th, 2008, the FDA's Ophthalmic Panel held an open public meeting to address 'Quality of Life' issues after Refractive Surgery. Among the presenters were Gerry Dorrian, whose son took his own life in 2007 as a result of his complications. David Shell help up charts depicting his distorted vision.

The 'positive side' was shown as well. The military spoke stating this was one of the best procedures available for those in the field. Doctors brought in patients potraying lasik as a miracle.

The panel was made aware that refractive surgery had a complication rate of about 5%. Think about it: If 1 million people had the procedure done, then that means 50,000 (5%) were damaged. Majority rules though, so 50,000 doesn't mean anything to the FDA. What about 5 million? That would make 250,000 people with complications! When I hear that the FDA is influenced by financial interest, you get no argument, especially since I've seen how they work!!!

As the FDA wants information on quality of life, I say give it to them. Anyone who's had a complication from refractive surgery send them your story. Let them know what your life is like now. And if you're sending it to them, copy, paste, and send a copy to me because I simply don't trust them!

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LasikFDA LAUNCHED PDF Print E-mail

Simply stated, its mission is "to expose deceit, corruption, and collusion by the FDA and the LASIK industry. You've read the hype about the 10-minute miracle. Now get the truth."

The cite contends that at that FDA panel meeting, "Insiders acquainted with the FDA approval process for medical devices were horrified as one by one, the presenters alleged deception by individual LASIK surgeons, cover ups perpetrated by medical device manufacturers, and corruption at the level of the FDA itself. Compelling cases were made for massive violations of federal law, the failure of the FDA to monitor surgical facilities for LASIK, and deliberate misclassification of severe complications as simple side-effects, as a means of securing premature FDA approval of the excimer laser.

LINK TO SITE

 
Did the FDA and ASCRS knowingly misrepresent the numbers of bad LASIK outcomes? PDF Print E-mail
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Reports of LASIK complications to the FDA’s MedWatch program (MAUDE Database) for medical device adverse events have nearly doubled since the public announcement of the the April 25th, 2008 Special Hearing of the Ophthalmic Devices Panel, held to discuss post-LASIK quality of life, depression, and suicide. At the hearing, two medical doctors, two optometrists, three psychologists, and a number of injured patients presented compelling information establishing a causal link between bad LASIK, depression, and suicide. Excerpts from two suicide notes were presented, including that of a medical student (video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UX855jmViaM) and that of a police officer who was well respected in his community (video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBAqnVfJ5GU).

Over the past decade since LASIK was FDA-approved, the Agency has failed to enforce physician reporting of adverse events.  In March and April, 2008, patients were made aware of the voluntary reporting option by media reports of an upcoming FDA Special Hearing on LASIK problems.  

The recent, rapid growth of complaints in the MAUDE database is, presumably, particularly embarassing for the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS). In its April 7th, 2008 press release, ASCRS attempted to spin public perception of the Special Hearing by stating that “Between 1998 and 2006, the FDA received a total of 140 comments relating to LASIK dissatisfaction, representing less than 1 in 10,000 U.S. LASIK patients.” Unfortunately for ASCRS, nearly twice as many complaints have been received in the last six months as in the last ten years since LASIK’s approval.

The growth of complaints is also embarassing for the FDA, since some patients at the meeting charged that they are victims of an ongoing medical coverup, perpetrated by collusion between ASCRS and the FDA. Indeed, in its April 7th, 2008 press release, ASCRS stated that “The FDA reaffirms that LASIK is both safe and effective.” LASIK critics have responded to this assertion by asking publicly “When exactly was ASCRS authorized to make public announcements for the Food and Drug Administration?” (see http://www.ascrs.org/press_releases/ASCRS-TO-PARTICIPATE-IN-AND-CO-FUND-STUDY-ON-POST-LASIK-QUALITY-OF-LIFE-WITH-US-FOOD-AND-DRUG-ADMINISTRATION.cfm)

Three other sources of information strongly support collusion between ASCRS and FDA. First, prior to the Special Hearing, patients who came to the FDA’s website were encouraged to use a complaint form to report their vision issues and dry eye complaints to the FDA. Unknown to patients, these complaints were held by FDA CDRH, but were never registered in the MAUDE reporting system. Neither were they reported in the April 7th ASCRS press release. Why did the FDA CDRH choose to suppress these complaints? Was it to make LASIK look safer than it really is? Even though LASIK surgeons are required to report adverse events from LASIK to the FDA, most surgeons have apparently never filed a single report, despite the fact that ASCRS admits that up to 5% of patients are dissatisfied with their results.

Second, compare the ASCRS press release with a 2006 document issued by the FDA CDRH at http://www.fda.gov/cdrh/postmarket/mdpi-report-1106.html. In this document, CDRH states frankly that “The data that are submitted via MDR rely upon a generation-old software platform (MAUDE) to organize, store and allow management of the data. This software, due to its age and limitations, does not allow MDR to serve its customers well. FDA staff and stakeholders report that MDR…does not provide timely and usable data to staff or other system users…[and]…has a large backlog of reports which hampers the ability to detect signals or identify problems.” Obviously, this document establishes that the FDA has long been aware of deficiencies in the MAUDE reporting system. Why, then, did the FDA allow ASCRS to speak for the agency? Why was ASCRS allowed to publicize deficient and inaccurate information in order spin public perception about the safety of LASIK? If the MAUDE system was known to be broken, why were complaints issued to the agency through its LASIK complaint form never counted?  

Third, in November, 2006, the same month the FDA released criticism of its MAUDE reporting system, the FDA approached ASCRS and AAO to form a Joint LASIK Study Task Force in response to complaints sent to the FDA and Congress by damaged LASIK patients. Apparently, ASCRS surgeons had over 1.5 years notice of FDA’s intention to call a Special Hearing for LASIK post-market issues.  In contrast, medical doctors, optometrists, psychologists, and injured patients who spoke on behalf of thousands of LASIK victims were not aware of the planned hearing until it was publicly announced in the Federal Register at the end of March, 2008. These individuals had just one month to prepare. Why did the FDA give the LASIK industry 1.5 years notice of the Special Hearing while patient groups and the public had only a one month notice?

Patient advocates want answers to these questions. So do thousands of damaged LASIK patients.

 
A Petition to BAN LASIK PDF Print E-mail

Human Geneticist and Biochemist Lauranell Burch has filed a petition with the FDA to ban LASIK. If you have complications from LASIK, you will want to comment. Be sure to include any deception in how LASIK was sold to you, inadequacy of informed consent, denial of your problems by your surgeon and second opinion surgeon, your vision immediately after your surgery and your vision now, and any feelings of depression and suicidal ideation, since these are common in patients with severe complications. You can comment here.

Due to enormous public outcry, the FDA is at last formally receiving general comments on LASIK here.

NOTICE:The FDA is currently assisting the LASIK industry in its medical coverup by censoring many patient comments to the petition, in clear violation of Federal Law. If you do not see your comment reflected, you now know why.

I submitted a response to the petition, as well as comment at another page on the FDA's site the beginning of September (08), to which nothing was posted. I called the FDA to inquire and was told "no individual consumer's response will be posted". In other words, unless you're part of the industry, you have no say! Poor excuses for censorship...

 
Patients feel FDA is disingenuous about interest in LASIK complications PDF Print E-mail

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LASIK is a 2.5 billion dollar per year industry.  LASIK is considered by some as the “gravy train” of ophthalmology.  Recently many questions have been raised about the frequency and severity of complications, and now many are wondering if LASIK really lives up to the hype.  

In the past decade, several lasers have received FDA approval for use in LASIK surgery.  A report of data from FDA clinical trials for LASIK, including current technology, reveals that approximately 20% of patients report complications.1  The report shows that six months after LASIK, 17.5 percent of patients reported halos, 19.7 percent reported glare, 19.3 percent had night-driving problems and 21 percent complained of dry eyes.  It appears that if FDA had properly classified these “symptoms” as adverse events or complications, the devices would have failed to meet safety requirements for approval.  

The FDA’s MedWatch program allows healthcare professionals and consumers to report adverse events associated with medical devices, such as those used to perform LASIK.  However, patients are not informed about the MedWatch program and there is no enforcement of reporting by physicians.  The inconsistency between the reported complication rates from LASIK clinical trials and the number of adverse events reported to the FDA through the MedWatch program clearly shows that complications from LASIK are grossly underreported.  

Reports of widespread, serious problems with LASIK prompted FDA to hold a post-market meeting on April 25, 2008 to hear patient complaints and to accept recommendations from a panel of experts.  The panel was chaired by LASIK surgeon, Dr. Jane Weiss.  In her closing remarks, Dr. Weiss blamed the problems on “some surgeons who should be doing a better job”, rather the surgery itself.  Patients felt the hearing was a sham.  

Two weeks before the FDA hearing, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS), a 10,000 member strong organization of ophthalmic surgeons, issued a press release stating the organization had formed a joint task force with FDA, National Eye Institute (NEI), and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) to conduct a prospective post-LASIK quality of life study.  The timing of the press release seems to indicate that the LASIK industry had inside information that the FDA had no plans to act swiftly on recommendations from the public at the hearing.  The unprecedented partnership between the LASIK industry and the FDA has raised eyebrows in the patient community.  

These events followed on the heels of media reports of patients who experienced depression, and a report of suicide, due to complications from LASIK.  ASCRS fired back at the North Carolina newspaper that broke the story in February.  A flurry of bad press for the LASIK industry followed.  By early March, the LASIK industry had launched its damage control campaign by releasing preliminary findings from a meta-analysis of LASIK studies, which showed a 95% satisfaction rate.   Patients consider this meta-analysis a smokescreen to conceal the high rate of complications, such as dry eyes and night vision impairment.  Four suicides and numerous cases of depression related to LASIK were reported at the FDA hearing.  

LASIK industry leadership subsequently announced the names of doctors who were hand-picked to design and conduct the post-LASIK quality of life study with the task force.  One of the doctors selected for the study is a well-known defense expert witness who testifies against LASIK patients who file medical malpractice lawsuits, has financial ties to the LASIK industry, and has made public statements that LASIK complications do not lead to depression.  Patients believe that all of the doctors chosen for the study are biased and lack objectivity, and that the study as proposed amounts to “the fox guarding the hen house”.

In a National Public Radio interview this week, Mary Weick-Brady, an FDA spokesperson, encouraged patients to report LASIK complications to the Agency using the MedWatch program.  Weick-Brady stated that halos, starbursts, and problems with night vision are considered adverse events.  

The question that many damaged LASIK patients now want the FDA to answer is, how did a medical device with a 20% rate of adverse events receive FDA approval in the first place?

  

Reference:

1.  Bailey MD, Zadnik K. Outcomes of LASIK for myopia with FDA-approved lasers. Cornea. 2007 Apr;26(3):246-54.

 
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