Australia is now leading the world in protecting older people from the debilitating impacts of wet age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of severe vision loss and blindness in Australia.
Professor Mark Gillies is lead investigator of the Fight Retinal Blindness! Registry at the Save Sight Institute in Sydney, one of the world’s leading groups in the field. He has just released data from the registry at 2015 RANZCO Congress, the international congress of eye surgeons in Wellington, organised by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists.
The research shows that Australia achieves significantly better long-term treatment outcomes than Europe or the United States in enabling older Australians with the disease to continue reading and driving. Over 1,000 eyes that had been treated for five to seven years were studied.
The average Australian patient had vision that was as good as or better than their starting vision for six years, compared with four years for the United States and two years for Europe. Forty per cent of Australian patients still had driving vision after seven years of treatment compared with only 23 per cent for the United States.
Australia achieves… better long-term treatment outcomes than Europe or the United States…
Professor Gillies said “this is an outstanding result as the research shows that the use of carefully managed anti-VEGF injections has enabled 40 per cent of Australian patients with wet macular degeneration to still have driving vision after seven years of treatment compared with just 23 per cent for the United States”.
Julie Heraghty, CEO of Macular Disease Foundation Australia, said that “Anti-VEGF injections have revolutionised the management of this devastating disease, reducing the financial, social and emotional costs associated with vision loss and blindness. Thousands of Australians are now preserving quality vision thereby maintaining independence and quality of life – something that was unimaginable a decade ago, before this treatment became available.
“As most Australians want to keep driving into their 80s, this research shows that you have a far better chance to keep on driving and avoid vision loss from age-related macular degeneration,” said Ms. Heraghty.
Both Professor Gillies and Ms. Heraghty agreed that Australia’s outstanding results are due to a unique combination of high disease awareness, leading to earlier diagnosis and treatment and highly skilled specialists providing quality care. In addition, successive Australian governments responding quickly to enable speedy access to sight-saving treatment through reimbursement on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, has been a key driver of success.
Professor Gillies stated that “the undeniable message of this research is that Australia’s approach establishes global best practice by a commitment to raising awareness, early detection and the accessibility and affordability of treatment”.
Professor Gillies recently received a grant from Macular Disease Foundation Australia. The grant, for AU$400,000 over three years, will help to fund his project entitled ‘How to get the best outcomes of treatment of neovascular age-related macular degeneration with vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitors: Real world evidence’. This project is a continuation of the ‘Fight Retinal Blindness!’ (FRB!) study, which has been running since 2007, and involves a large web-based database tracking over 5,000 patients being treated by more than 50 ophthalmologists.