J&J gets real

Functional device measures, support for practices bring innovative tech to life

Howard Larkin

Posted: Thursday, December 3, 2020

Erin McEachren, J&J Surgical Vision’s
regional vice president for Europe,
the Middle East and Africa

Cataract surgery isn’t just about reading letters at six metres. It’s also about helping patients read their phones, shop, cook and avoid falls in their daily lives. Measuring such functional and economic benefits of intraocular lenses (IOLs) and other devices is just one example of how Johnson & Johnson Surgical Vision is innovating to do a better job of meeting patient – and surgeon – needs, said Erin McEachren, J&J Surgical Vision’s new regional vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Eyhance®, the TECNIS monofocal IOL that improves intermediate as well as distance vision, is a good example, McEachren said. “It’s not just innovation, but innovation at a cost that is not prohibitive. This really enables big institutions to use great technology in a way that delivers value that you can see, such as potentially reducing falls.”

To that end, J&J is developing registries and other survey tools that do a better job not only of quantifying patient benefits, but of also detecting and addressing unmet patient needs. “We are looking at it from a data-driven perspective; not just clinical outcomes but the whole picture so we can better understand functional outcomes and the healthcare economics of our products,” McEachren said.

McEachren sees this as a J&J strength due to its broad portfolio of businesses and resources, which include pharmaceutical development and non-surgical ocular products. “Pharma does a good job with value-based healthcare and we are applying that approach to medical device development, which is more dynamic. I won’t say we have it all figured out, but the data is driving it.”

Similarly, J&J Surgical Vision is innovating to help surgeons be more effective and efficient. For example, new software for the Catalys Precision Laser System for femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery improves astigmatism correction in several ways.

Developed in collaboration with Cassini Technologies, the CATALYS™ System cOS 6.0 update adds iris registration for automatic cyclotorsion compensation. The software also reduces the need for intraoperative aberrometry for IOL alignment by allowing radial laser marks with a mean accuracy of 0.6°, or 5.5 times more precise than manual markers. Automated data entry increases accuracy and efficiency while built-in nomograms reduce time spent on calculations for arcuate incisions.

Combined with the TECNIS Synergy™ Toric II, introduced at this year’s Congress of the ESCRS, the update further strengthens J&J’s astigmatism platform. TECNIS Synergy™ Toric II is a newly designed lens with a flat defocus curve, which offers a broad range of continuous vision and superior low-light performance for reading in dim lighting. The new lens also features frosted haptics designed to improve rotational stability in the eye.

It’s all part of an overall corporate focus on improved effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability that includes professional education, research and clinic systems improvements. “One reason I joined J&J is there is so much development and a vision platform with a 2030 goal,” McEachren said.

As many ophthalmic practices have reported, COVID-19 has had one upside for J&J Surgical Vision, as it has enabled surgeons around the globe to collaborate more through video and webinars. “It has given us strategic time to reflect on our past and plan our future, strengthening our organisation and our partnerships with clinicians, private clinics, and public hospitals, and look at more-creative solutions,” McEachren said.

Throughout the pandemic, J&J has provided assistance in the hardest hit areas. In one UK case, J&J Surgical Vision donated a Tecnis Toric IOL and helped arrange surgery that allowed a critically needed consultant anaesthesiologist to return to work in London while elective surgeries were shut down. He had a first Tecnis lens implanted before the lockdown, and needed the second to correct anisometropia that left him barely able to function using PPE.

Fogged spectacles from mask wearing also appears to be driving an uptick in refractive surgery, McEachren noted. “It’s an opportunity for refractive lens exchange and to help younger patients transition to IOLs.” Overall, refractive centres have recovered a little quicker than cataract practices, though whether the trend holds remains to be seen.

Overall, the pandemic took a toll on J&J as well as practices, especially during the second quarter of 2020. Recovery has happened at different rates across the region, accordingly to lock down timings and local restrictions, McEachren said.

These unmet needs set the stage for a strong comeback, perhaps with more efficient processes and effective products, said McEachren, who is optimistic about the field’s prospects over the next few years. She believes J&J Surgical Vision has prepared and has the resources to change the trajectory of eye care going forward.

“I have been blown away by the great people at J&J and their commitment to our customers. I feel very lucky and supported as a business leader that we can focus on what really matters for our patients both now and in the future,” McEachren said.