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    Saving sight will save billions of dollars

    An investment to save the sight of thousands of vulnerable older Australians will save the Government up two billion dollars.

    Investing to support people with macular disease to persist with sight saving treatment can save government billions of dollars and the sight of thousands. 

    A new economic modelling report, Investing to Save Sight: Health and Economic Benefits of Improving Macular Disease Treatment Persistence, was launched today by Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA).  It shows that an investment to save the sight of thousands of vulnerable older Australians will save the Government up two billion dollars – and it has the Australian public’s support.

    Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness in Australia. One in seven Australians over the age of 50, representing 1.5 million Australians, show some evidence of AMD

    Currently, 80,000 Australians receive regular anti-VEGF eye injections to retain vision and prevent blindness. Since their introduction in 2007, eye injections have saved the sight of countless Australians living with neovascular AMD and diabetic macular oedema. 

    On average, patients need between 5–7 eye injections per eye each year, often for the rest of their lives. Regrettably, 20% of people will stop treatment in their first year, and 50% of people will stop their eye injections within 5 years putting them at risk of severe vision loss or blindness. 

    MDFA commissioned PwC Australia to model the economic benefits to government of increasing treatment persistence for people with wet AMD. Cost and access are identified as two of the main reasons why people with neovascular AMD stop treatment. This includes the challenges in accessing affordable or bulk-billed treatment for low-income earners and pensioners and difficulty accessing treatment for those living in rural and remote Australia. 

    The Investing to Save Sight report shows that by increasing treatment persistence by 25%, the sight of an additional 22,000 vulnerable Australians will be saved, and up to two billion dollars added to the Government’s bottom line. 

    MDFA is recommending three key areas for state, territory and federal governments to consider investment to increase treatment persistence by up to 25%. 

    These include:         

    1. Increased affordability, 

    2. Increased access to treatment, 

    3. Increased Health Literacy to help people stay on treatment.

    By helping just an additional one in four people stay on their eye injection treatment journey through these measures, the results are astonishing with government would benefitting an amount of up to $2 billion over the next decade.

    MDFA’s Patron, Ita Buttrose AC OBE, says it is a tragedy that in 2023 Australians are losing their sight unnecessarily.

    Being able to see is a priceless gift that people take for granted until they lose it. So many older Australians are needlessly going blind when there are reasonable investments that Government can make now for a longer-term benefit.

    The investment has popular public approval with a recent YouGov survey finding that eight in ten Australians believe that government should invest in sight. It also showed that 69% of people believed pensioners should be provided with free sight-saving eye injections.

    Government can make huge savings, simply by making it easier for people who need eye injections to persist with their treatment.

    Ms Buttrose

    “Eye injection treatment saves people’s sight and maintains their quality of life. It reduces the reliance upon the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the aged care system, which we know are already under enormous strain.” 

    The Investing to Save Sight report is being launched as part of the MDFA Macula Month awareness program. MDFA CEO, Dr. Kathy Chapman says that the launch of the report is the start of a much larger conversation to support an investment into systemic change to eye injection treatment for the macular disease community. 

    A modest shift of 25%, or 22,000 patients, persisting with eye injection treatment may not sound like much, but the longer-term impact for those people living with AMD and their families is enormous 

    Dr. Chapman

    Posted: 28 April 2023

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