I consider myself fortunate to have been blessed with good eyesight and no refractive issues significant enough to require glasses or contact lenses. Therefore, usually when I write articles about the latest developments in eye care, it is hard to imagine how significant a new technology or drug is to a patient’s life. However, I do suffer regularly from dry eyes and as such, I understand how uncomfortable and frustrating it can be to go about your daily life while having to constantly re-apply eye drops.
It is estimated that there are over 300 million people globally suffering in some form or fashion from dry eyes. In the US, between 30 and 45 million people have Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, of which only half are being seen by medical professionals. It is also thought that this is a growing issue, not only due to ageing populations, but from digital device use and a vast increase in screen time.
Apart from the discomfort caused by dry eye disease (DED), we now know that roughly 70% of refraction occurs through the tear film and not the cornea. I didn’t realise this until the time of writing, but it goes a long way in explaining as to why I struggle to focus on the television after a long day at work, and especially if I haven’t used my drops.
Previously science thought that the sole issue behind dry eyes was an aqueous deficiency problem, meaning a patient could not produce enough tears. The solution? Replace them with more artificial tears. But today, our dry eye experts have helped us understand dry eye disease more fully. Unfortunately, we had previously misidentified the problem. Most patients actually produce adequate tear volume. They simply cannot retain enough tear fluid due to evaporation issues caused by a gland obstruction found in our eyelids.
There’s some great science in artificial tears, especially with the lipid-based drop formulations, and they definitely elevate the symptoms of my dry eyes. Of course, that’s presuming I remember to take them everywhere with me and use them regularly. However, after recently founding Vision Executives, I find adherence to a drop routine during the working day is almost impossible. Clearly, I’m not the only one in this situation, as compliance is a significant issue facing the eye care industry with chronic dry eye patients. Creating products to not only address the problem, whilst doing it in a way to help solve patient compliance, presents a significant challenge. We need innovative solutions that are easy to use, effective and convenient, and aid this growing problem.
Coincidently, I was able to speak with the Co-Founders of ThermaMEDx, via LinkedIn, about their new technology to help address the underlying problems causing the majority of symptoms DED or MGD patients experience. I connected first with Ben Nobles, a Partner and Co-Founder of ThermaMEDx. Ben has three decades of experience in the eye care industry and was a senior executive for Alcon’s Vision Care franchise. I met up with him (virtually) to find out more about the recent launch of ThermaMEDx and their first product – EverTears®.
“It’s takes the right team to help solve big industry problems”
Ben was keen to talk to me about the team that made it all possible which includes; Michel Guillon, Ph.D, FAAO, a world renowned research scientist, who is a Partner and Co-Founder. Professor Guillon has conducted pioneering research in ocular surface disease and thermal science. To date, he has presented over 150 publications at international conferences and is a co-inventor on thirty-one patents worldwide.
In 2020, Professor Guillon met an American entrepreneur named Carl Sweat, who became convinced that the technology Guillion had developed could make a significant improvement to patients’ lives. Sweat is a former Coca-Cola executive, with extensive experience growing large consumer brands and start-up companies. He provided a unique perspective on how to unlock the value of Professor Guillon’s patents without enormous investment. Gregg Ossip, O.D. then joined the three co-founders and was the final piece to the leadership team. Dr. Ossip, an industry veteran and KOL, brings exceptional experience in research, direct patient care and business leadership. Dr. Ossip ran one of the largest and fastest growing optical businesses in the US and understands the challenges facing eye care providers today.
ThermaMEDx seems to have assembled the dream team in eyecare and consumer goods, with well over a century of experience between them. As such I have no doubt of the company’s potential to advance patient care and improve the treatment options available for dry eye patients around the world.
“The MGD Problem: Most patients produce enough tears, yet they simply cannot hold on to them due to evaporation caused by an obstruction or blockage in their meibomian glands”
As explained, DED patients already have access to artificial tears, lubricants, ointments and gels, as we all believed the problem was that we did not have enough tears. Today, we recognise this is not technically correct. Many patients produce adequate tear volume yet simply lose their tears to evaporation due to clogged or blocked meibomian glands. Our tears have 3 very important layers, the aqueous, mucin and oily layer. It is the oily layer, which is produced in the meibomian glands, that protects our tears and helps prevent evaporation. When this oily layer becomes too viscous or solidifies, the glands in our lids become clogged. This very important oily layer either stops flowing or is severely disrupted, hence the term MGD or Meibomian Gland Dysfunction.
Recent research discovered that 86% of patients have been classified as having Meibomian Gland Dysfunction. Some clinicians use meibography, where eye care professionals observe the morphology of the meibomian glands, to show patients what is going on. Like with glaucoma, the aim here is to educate patients on what is happening to their eyes to persuade them to stick with their treatments. If not treated daily with heat therapy and kept clean, these glands will atrophy and die. This highlights the chronic nature of this disease and why we need new science to help address the problem.
“Hopefully eye care professionals can educate patients on the chronic condition, and how to fit treatment into their daily routine”
Lid hygiene, artificial tears and warm compresses are already the primary care treatments a doctor will tell a patient to utilise for DED. Most heat-based treatments for dry eyes require access to a microwave. However, the issue with these products is that most people have their microwave on a different floor to where they sleep, meaning adherence to treatment becomes challenging. The fact that microwaves vary dramatically in power also makes it difficult to ensure precise, safe heat is consistently applied. Furthermore, I know from personal experience, drops only provide short-term relief from tear deficiency but “EverTears® is a sterile self-heating warm compress and lid hygiene combination”. It has precise thermal technology that heats the oils to the perfect temperature which has been shown to reduce blockages and dropouts in meibomian glands, thus providing longer lasting relief. ThermaMEDx has also been created with the consumer in mind, in the hopes that they will find EverTears® an easier treatment to stick with, due to convenience provided from the combination of two therapies in one.
“We wanted to make EverTears® simple, to where you could integrate it into your lifestyle”
Carl explained that “Professor Guillon and our scientists recommend using EverTears® daily for two minutes per eye to allow the technology to do its work. This short treatment time allows patients to incorporate EverTears® into their daily lifestyle and morning or bedtime routine”.
After 30 years of research, EverTears® and its patented technology, which aims to be more accessible to the consumer, is ready for commercial launch. It is FDA registered and will be available over the counter (OTC), making it simpler and more affordable for the patient to access the product. No waiting time and no prescription, EverTears® will be readily available for when the customer needs it. Distribution of EverTears® in the US is expected this summer, with global expansion plans also on the horizon.
“We've already got a couple of other products in our pipeline”
I asked the ThermaMEDx team whether they had plans for some other products in the future. “We are excited about the launch of EverTears®, yet recognise the significance of our new platform and technology. Professor Guillon and the scientific team are already working on some future innovations”, Ben explained to me. The same thermal platform used in EverTears® could be utilised in other technologies to treat various other ocular diseases, conditions, and pathologies.
I found speaking with the ThermaMEDx leadership team truly enlightening, as they educated me on my own dry eye symptoms and the science behind my suffering. I wish Ben, Carl and the ThermaMEDx team the best of luck with their venture and can’t wait to try EverTears® for myself.
Credits: Rachel Glaves, Vision Executives International Recruitment, ThermMedx
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James Pickering is our Managing Director and an eye care recruitment expert who has developed an extensive client base and candidate network. He regularly writes articles about industry developments and has received numerous recommendations from industry leaders. You can also connect with James on LinkedIn to stay up to date on the latest eye care news.