Second Sight Medical Products' Argus II retinal prosthesis system, the world's first approved device intended to restore some functional vision for people suffering from blindness due to outer retinal degenerations, has become the first recipient of the French Government national healthcare reimbursement programme, entitled: 'Forfait Innovation'.
The French Minister of Social Affairs and Health selected Argus II for the Forfait Innovation award, a new funding mechanism launched by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to fast track the provision of innovative healthcare technologies to French patients. Argus II represents the first medical device to benefit from dedicated support through this funding in the five years since the programme was announced. Forfait Innovation funding covers the costs of implantation of Argus II and also includes patients' hospital fees. With funding for this technology now in place, an official programme to treat advanced retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is commencing in France. Up to 30 RP patients per year in the country will now be implanted with Argus II.
With this decision, France joins a number of other countries in Europe that fund the FDA-approved and CE-marked Argus II, while in the UK, the National Health Service is currently considering reimbursement for the device. After commercial launch in Europe in 2011, Second Sight announced in January 2014 that the first US patients have been implanted following FDA approval in 2013.
Argus II works by converting video images captured by a miniature camera housed in the patient's glasses into a series of small electrical pulses that are transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes on the surface of the retina. These pulses are intended to stimulate the retina's remaining cells resulting in the corresponding perception of patterns of light in the brain. The patient then learns to interpret these visual patterns thereby regaining some visual function.