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VOL. 125 | NO. 67 | Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Odyssey Sees Market In Dry-Eye Devices

By Tom Wilemon

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Odyssey Medical may not be as big as Medtronic Inc. or Smith & Nephew, but it ships its products all over the world just like the bigger players in the Memphis medical device industry.

The company, founded in 1995, specializes in tiny implants to treat dry eye syndrome. It extended its product options last September with the Micro Flow Punctal Occluder and expects sales to rise as Baby Boomers age.

“We had more interest internationally for it, but it’s kind of been surprising how much domestic business we’ve gotten from it,” said Dawn Sanders, product manager for Odyssey.

The company, which employs 53 people in Bartlett, distributes it products in more than 25 countries.

In 1997, two years after Gary and Barbara Tatge founded the company, Odyssey introduced its primary product, the Parasol Punctal Occulder. The Parasol is slightly bigger than a grain of salt and goes into the tear duct. “It’s like putting a stopper into a sink to hold the water in the eye longer,” Sanders said.

The plugs keep tears from draining into the nasal passage.

“It is a painless procedure,” she said. “It takes only a few minutes.”

Sanders is a certified ophthalmic assistant, who before her employment at Odyssey helped ophthalmologists insert the devices.

“The patient will feel – possibly sometimes just for a day or two – a little foreign-body sensation,” she said. “Then they adjust to it.”

About 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from dry eye syndrome, a number that will rise as people age.

“We have three layers of tear film,” Sanders said. “They are the watery film, which nourishes and cleans the cornea, the oily film, which keeps the tears from evaporating from the eye – which is the most important – and then a mucin level, which spreads the tears more evenly across the cornea.”

The problem occurs with the oily film.

“As we get older, we tend to lose the oily film,” she said. “Just like our skin dries out, your eyes tend to dry out.”

The plugs are often prescribed in unison with drugs that reduce the inflammation associated with dry eye syndrome.

Dr. Craig McCabe of Murfreesboro published an article last November in the Review of Ophthalmology about the effectiveness of punctual occlusion. He pointed out that new anti-inflammatory treatments can be expensive and inflammation is not always the cause of the condition.

In the study of 108 patients, Odyssey’s Parasol Punctal Occluders were inserted to treat dry eye syndrome.

In follow-up visits, 91 percent of patients reported that they had more moisture. Also, the retention rate for the devices was 92 percent. Only 8 percent of the plugs were lost from the tear ducts.

Odyssey operates from a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on Brother Boulevard. The company expanded into the bigger space in November 2008.

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