A coordinated national approach that encouraged people with diabetes to have eye checks could reduce the incidence of preventable blindness, help increase labour productivity and significantly reduce the financial burden being placed on Australia’s economy, which stands at AU$2.07 billion in this year alone.
A new Deloitte Access Economics report supported by Macular Disease Foundation Australia and Diabetes Australia identified that the entire indirect financial and wellbeing costs associated with diabetic macular oedema (DME) in 2015 will be AU$2.07 billion – with a large part due to productivity losses (approximately $570 million).1 Per person affected by the disease, that cost amounts to $28,729. The report did not include the cost of hospitalisation and other treatments.
DME is one of the leading causes of blindness for working-age Australians and can prevent people from working at full capacity or, in the worst case, from working at all. It can occur in anyone living with diabetes.2, 3
The report estimates that of more than 1.7 million Australians who currently have diabetes, 72,000 have diabetic macular oedema. By 2030, without effective prevention and treatment, those numbers are predicted to escalate to 2.45 million people with diabetes, of which 103,000 will have DME.
Lynne Pezzullo, report author and Lead Partner, Health Economics and Social Policy at Deloitte Access Economics said, “91 per cent of the estimated $624.30 million indirect costs of DME in 2015 is projected to be caused by lower workforce participation, absenteeism and an estimated 218 premature and preventable deaths associated with the condition because of poor vision.
“With an anticipated 42 per cent rise in DME prevalence by 2030, if effective prevention and treatment were not in place, and with ongoing demographic ageing, we can expect the effects of this condition on productivity losses to be felt even more strongly in the future,” said Ms. Pezzullo.
Julie Heraghty, CEO of Macular Disease Foundation Australia, said the increasing numbers of people living with diabetes was of major concern, as every person with diabetes is at risk of vision impairment. “Many Australians with diabetes don’t recognise they are at risk of blindness or the importance of maintaining regular eye tests when their risk actually increases over time – even if they are managing their diabetes well. Of concern is that only half undergo the recommended two-yearly eye examination, (or more frequently for some people) even though early detection and timely treatment can prevent vision loss.”
Prof Greg Johnson, CEO of Diabetes Australia, explained that much of this problem is preventable. “A large part of this adverse impact on people with diabetes, the community, productivity and wellbeing is preventable by a more coordinated, national approach to eye checks for people with diabetes. This report shows that if we could increase the number of people with diabetes having eye checks by 50 per cent, then approximately 4,500 additional people with DME could be identified and potentially receive earlier treatment to prevent disease progression and prevent serious vision loss,” said Prof Johnson.
*All figures referenced to the Deloitte Access Economics “The Economic Impact of Diabetic Macular Oedema in Australia” are estimates only and are based on modelling conducted by Deloitte Access Economics.
** The report does not address the direct costs of hospitalisation and other treatments.
1. Deloitte Access Economics Pty Ltd, 2015, The Economic Impact of Diabetic Macular Oedema in Australia.
2. Ciulla TA, Amador AG, Zinman B, 2003, Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema: Pathophysiology, Screening, and novel Therapies, Diabetes Care 26(9): 2653-64.
3. The Angiogenesis Foundation, 2014, A Patient Guide to Diabetes Macular Edema.