The GA Won’t Wait campaign is designed to help older adults and their families understand and recognize the symptoms of this progressive and irreversible disease.
Apellis Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced a new campaign with actor Henry Winkler to raise awareness of geographic atrophy (GA), an advanced form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and a leading cause of blindness.
The GA Won’t Wait campaign helps older adults and their families understand and recognize the symptoms of this progressive and irreversible disease. Together, Apellis and Winkler are empowering people over the age of 60 to monitor and discuss vision changes with an eye doctor, such as a retina specialist, ophthalmologist, or optometrist.
Winkler has personally seen how vision loss caused by AMD can affect an individual and their loved ones. His father-in-law Ed, with whom he shared a close relationship, was diagnosed with AMD, causing him to lose his central vision and, ultimately, his independence. As his vision loss progressed, Winkler recognized that aspects of his father-in-law’s everyday life became increasingly difficult, such as continuing his career in dentistry and eventually simple tasks like pouring a glass of water.
“Remembering my father-in-law Ed’s struggle with AMD is why I am partnering with Apellis to help older adults and their families become aware of GA,” Winkler said in a news release. “I saw firsthand how profoundly isolating vision loss may be for older adults.
Winkler added that he now is the same age as Ed when his vision started to decline.
“I have no plans to slow down,” he said. “I am so passionate about prioritizing my eye health that I would carry my car to the eye doctor if I started to notice a change in my vision. That’s how on top of it you have to be.”
GA is a leading cause of blindness worldwide that impacts approximately 1 million people in the United States. Vision symptoms tend to get worse over time and the damage cannot be reversed or corrected with glasses or surgery. Symptoms include blurry or missing spots in a person’s vision, straight lines seeming wavy, and difficulty seeing in the dark. These symptoms often cause people with GA to lose the ability to take on daily tasks such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces.
“It is a common misconception that significant vision loss is a natural part of aging, which can cause patients to delay in seeking out important care,” Caroline Baumal, MD, chief medical officer of Apellis, said in a news release. “An early diagnosis is critical for this progressive disease, so we are thrilled to be working with Henry Winkler to help older adults learn about GA and reinforce that eye health should be prioritized as we age.”
Winkler’s career spans five decades, starting with his breakout television role as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli on the sitcom Happy Days in the 1970s. He has appeared in Arrested Development, Barry and Royal Pains. His film credits include Night Shift, Scream and holiday TV movie The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. He has appeared in a number of television shows and movies during his career, winning a Primetime Emmy, two Daytime Emmys, two Golden Globe Awards and two Critics Choice Awards.