Anne Norton

Anne Norton

‘I owe my eyesight to clinical trials’

Anne, 79, from Keighley, West Yorkshire, has always had a general interest in clinical research. This stemmed from working as a theatre sister, before becoming a magistrate, and also from her husband Ray’s work as an orthopaedic surgeon.

However, it was Anne’s diagnosis of Wet Macular Degeneration, which causes the loss of the eye’s central vision that really brought home the importance of clinical trials.

Wet Macular Degeneration develops when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the macula and damage its cells. Anne began having anti-VEGF medication injected into her eye with a fine needle, to stop her vision getting worse by preventing further blood vessels from developing.

“I felt very grateful for what was then a new treatment, it had only been available on the NHS for a few months. So, I’m thankful to the people who took part in the trials that resulted in the treatment that has saved my vision.”

Anne was diagnosed nine years ago after finding it difficult to see properly in one eye.

“Prior to that I had no problems with my eyesight, I didn’t even wear glasses.”

A few years into her treatment, Anne suspected that the disease was also in her other eye, which is common with Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

“It didn’t show up on the initial scan, but my consultant knew that I would recognise the symptoms and kept a close watch on me. Eventually Wet Macular disease was diagnosed in my right eye.”

Without treatment, vision can deteriorate in just days, so Anne began to have injections in both eyes.

“In total I have had about 68 injections. The early diagnosis of my right eye means it’s not scarred and I can see quite well.”

It was a different story for Anne’s mother, who lost her sight because of this age-related disease.

“This treatment was sadly not available for my mother. We’re an ageing population so this disease will affect more of us and the injections help us to keep our sight and remain independent, which benefits everyone. So, clinical trials benefit us all.”

Anne’s desire to help ensure the availability of new treatments is one of the reasons why she took part in a clinical trial herself, in which radiotherapy was used on patients with the disease.

“I strongly believe that people should take part in clinical trials because without them we can’t progress.”

International Clinical Trials Day takes place on May 20 every year and marks the anniversary of what is considered to be the first ever randomised clinical trial, conducted by James Lind into scurvy in 1747.

Those who want to know more about clinical trials going on in their area should go to the UK Clinical Trials Gateway at www.ukctg.nihr.ac.uk