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Medical Negligence

Dozens of people begin legal action against lens replacement firm

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Alice Sanderson, January 16, 2019

Lens firm Oculentis are facing legal action after a number of patients began experiencing blind patches in their sight since having their lenses replaced.

The lens in the eye is a transparent, biconvex structure that, together with the cornea, helps to refract light to be focused on the retina.

Lens surgery -  the replacement of the eye’s natural lenses - is a common treatment for cataracts and can be used to treat long and short-sighted vision.  Around half a million people in the UK have the surgery each year.

Recently reports have emerged, and here at First4Lawyers we have had cases ourselves, of a number of patients who have experienced opacification after having surgery that used lenses manufactured by German company, Oculentis.  

Cloudy vision

Opacification is a cloudiness in vision, that occurs when calcium deposits build up. Although it’s a known risk of lens surgery, it is relatively rare.

It often only appears a number of years after surgery, as leading eye surgeon Sheraz Daya explained to the BBC: "A percentage of lenses have deposits of calcium on the surface that only become evident five to seven years later, when they accumulate enough to obscure their vision.

"It is understandably devastating for patients who thought they were done and dusted for life and didn't anticipate an issue with the lens."

Lenses recalled

Oculentis have investigated and have recalled the lenses that caused the issues, asking providers to return affected batches of the type of lens involved.

They have identified the cause as a possible interaction between silicone residue on the lens and phosphate crystals used in the hydration process.

Oculentis claim that some people may be predisposed to this problem, or it may be caused by certain medications.

It is believed that the lenses involved were used a number of years ago, and there is no suggestion that any lenses currently available from Oculentis are affected.

The only way to correct the problem is to replace the affected lenses, and Oculentis are paying for surgeons such as Sheraz Daya to do this. So far around half of the 800 people known to be affected have had their lenses replaced.

Lens exchange surgery

Oculentis told the BBC in a statement: "We regret if any patients have experienced complications following the implant of one of our lenses.

"Opacification, or clouding of the lens, is a known risk of lens eye surgery and can be caused by a number of factors interacting, which are not necessarily attributable to the lens itself.

"The incidence rate is extremely low. It can be effectively remedied through lens exchange surgery, which is a safe and well-established procedure.

"Anyone experiencing any vision impairment should consult their surgeon or clinic who will be able to diagnose the cause and recommend an appropriate course of action, otherwise there is no need for any concern."

However, some of those affected, such as Denise De Battista, are nervous about having a second round of surgery to replace the lenses, as this is not a routine procedure and not all surgeons are willing to do it.

Comment

Spokesperson for First4Lawyers, Andrew Cullwick said: “It is clear from the number of cases that have already emerged that there was a serious fault with Oculentis lenses around five years ago.

“Whilst this appears to have been fixed, we will not know for a number of months or even years whether current lenses are affected, as it takes a while for the calcium deposits to manifest.

“We appreciate Oculentis have admitted fault, but this is something that should never have happened in the first place. If 800 people have surgery to fix their sight, they should not have to face surgery a second time.

“We had a case come in the morning the news broke on the BBC, and we expect there are still more to come. We’re here to assist anyone who has suffered as a result of these faulty lenses.”