New Zealand Eye Care Professionals Demand Funding for Lucentis

Lucentis has become the drug of choice by eye care professionals as the treatment for wet macular degeneration.  Currently countries such as France and Australia provide coverage for the drug and other countries such as Britain are developing criteria for which Lucentis coverage will be given to macular degeneration patients.  New Zealand does not current provide coverage for the macular degeneration treatment Lucentis, prompting eye care professionals to demand funding.

In a media release issued from the New Zealand Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophtalmologists, doctors are requesting that the drug buying agency Pharmac to provide funding for the drug Lucentis as a treatment for wet macular degeneration.

Wet macular degeneration is an eye disease that results when abnormal blood vessels grow and leak in the retina, damaging the macula, the portion of the eye responsible for central vision.  Macular degeneration has become the leading cause of blindness in people over 50 and it is estimated that approximately 15,000 New Zealanders suffer from the eye disease.  Lucentis has shown a remarkable ability to not only halt the progression of macular degeneration but in approximately 40 percent of the cases, reverse the damage caused by this eye disease.

Watching as other countries such as France, Australia and Britain move towards providing coverage for Lucentis, New Zealand eye care doctors are one again finding themselves asking for funding.

Dr. Dianne Sharp, an Aukland Ophthamologist outlined that neovascular (wet) macular degeneration affects approximately 15,000 people in New Zealand and has become the leading cause of blindness.  She explains “Previous treatments have only been able to limit the severity of vision loss in some patients with this condition.”  She goes on to say “Lucentis may not only prevent vision loss, but actually improve vision in those treated.”

Dr. Sharp indicated that it costs approximately $21,000 to care for a person that is legally blind and that the cost of providing care to those individuals resulting from falls and general care far outweighs the costs of providing treatment with Lucentis to treat those patients diagnosed with macular degeneration.

The regulatory body in New Zealand has expressed concerns over the cost of providing treatment with Lucentis, as are many other governments throughout the world.

New Zealand ophthalmologists have requested formal consultation to present its arguments for providing coverage of the drug.  Will Lucentis be funded in New Zealand and provide a site saving drug to those patients diagnosed with macular degeneration?  Only time will tell if the eye car professionals are successful in obtaining Lucentis to treat this eye disease.