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Consultant ophthalmologist Sobha Sivaprasad wins 2019 Nettleship Medal for study highlighting superior alternative to established diabetic retinopathy treatment

5 April 2019

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) is pleased to announce Sobha Sivaprasad, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Moorfields Eye Hospital and Editor of RCOphth’s scientific journal, Eye, as the winner of the 2019 Nettleship Medal after a decade long hiatus for the award.

Mr Edward Nettleship was a renowned ophthalmologist known for his work with hereditary eye diseases. In 1901 a fund was inaugurated by his friends and pupils with the object of founding a prize for the encouragement of scientific ophthalmic work. Sobha joins a long list of illustrious ophthalmologists who have previously won the medal.

The Nettleship Medal is awarded for the best piece of original work by a British ophthalmologist published in any journal during the last three years. Sobha will be presenting her work at the RCOphth Annual Congress in Glasgow1. Not only is this the first time the Nettleship Medal has been awarded in 10 years, but it is also the first time Glasgow has hosted the Annual Congress since 1999. The medal will be awarded during the Congress prize ceremony on Wednesday 23 May, where Sobha will present the study to delegates.

Sobha’s winning research is the first study to show that an anti-VEGF agent is superior to pan-retinal photocoagulation (PRP) for patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) both in terms of visual acuity and anatomical improvement2. For the past 40 years PRP has been the dominant treatment for PDR and the paper, published in the Lancet, shows that the use of intravitreal aflibercept may in fact be a superior alternative. The study found no safety concerns over a one year period, as well as a patient preference for the anti-VEGF agent treatment in a clinical setting. This study proves a very important starting point in exploring the use of anti-VEGF agents as a clinical alternative.

Sobha outlined in her application that ‘proliferative diabetic retinopathy [PDR] is a significant public health problem as it causes severe visual loss if left untreated’. Furthermore, PDR is the most common cause of severe sight impairment in people with diabetes. The latest figures from Diabetes UK3 show that a record 4.7 million people in the UK are living with diabetes. With diabetes proving to be one of the main modern public health challenges, any breakthrough in treatment for the effects of the disease are vital for patient safety and outcomes.

The trial was funded by The Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation Programme (EME), a Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research partnership. This was the first time an ophthalmologist has secured EME funding, allowing the trial to involve 22 NHS units.

Editors Notes

  1. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists Annual Congress 2019 (May 20-23, Glasgow)
  2. Sobha Sivaprasad, A Toby Prevost, Joana C Vasconcelos, Amy Riddell, Caroline Murphy, Joanna Kelly, James Bainbridge, Rhiannon Tudor-Edwards, David Hopkins, Philip Hykin, on behalf of the CLARITY Study Group* (2017), ‘Clinical efficacy of intravitreal aflibercept versus panretinal photocoagulation for best corrected visual acuity in patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy at 52 weeks (CLARITY): a multicentre, single-blinded, randomised, controlled, phase 2b, non-inferiority trial’, Lancet; 389: 2193–203
  3. Diabetes UK (2019), Number of people with diabetes reaches 4.7 million