The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health has announced funding of AU$150,000 for Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) to develop a Strategic National Action Plan to better supports patients with macular disease. The funding is in addition to $1.28 million the MDFA receives through the Health Peak and Advisory Bodies Fund to help reduce the incidence and impact of the disease in Australia.
The National Action Plan will seek to develop a strategic direction around the management, prevention and treatment of macular disease that in the future may be incorporated into government policies and budgets. The development of the action plan will be led by MDFA as the national peak body, and will provide a blue print for key priorities and actions to reduce the incidence and impact of macular disease.
Dee Hopkins, CEO of Macular Disease Foundation Australia sees this as a great step forward in addressing this chronic disease, “Minister Hunt has shown great foresight in acknowledging the growing incidence of macular disease and the impact it is having as a chronic disease in Australia.
“As our population ages and becomes more at risk of aged-related macular degeneration, and with a rising prevalence of diabetic eye disease in working aged Australians, the incidence and impact of macular disease will only increase and put additional strain on our healthcare system. The National Strategic Action Plan will help us prepare, prioritise and invest wisely to support the macular disease community,” said Ms. Hopkins.
“For macular disease to be elevated in importance in this way is certainly affirming that the voice of the macular disease community has been heard by the government. With an estimated 1.7 million Australians showing some evidence of macular disease, the timing is right for the development of a National Strategic Action Plan”.
The Journey to See
The funding announcement was made in Parliament House at the launch of MDFA’s most recent report, “The Journey to See: A Model for Success”. Minister Hunt was joined by MDFA’s Patron, Ita Buttrose AO OBE and Professor Paul Mitchell AO, Australia’s leading Ophthalmologist and sight saving researcher.
The Journey to See: A Model for Success is a timely report examining anti-VEGF treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration and the impact over the past ten years.
Mr. Hunt welcomed the report, which he said “shows Australia is a world-class leader in fighting macular disease.
“The Journey to See: A Model for Success, highlights the ground-breaking work Australia has delivered over the last 10 years in the treatment and management of age-related macular disease, which is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia,” said Mr. Hunt.
The report outlines how collaboration between government, healthcare professionals, research agencies, the pharmaceutical industry and the Macular Disease Foundation Australia has delivered a continuum of care for Australians – from awareness and prevention to management and support of those living with AMD.
Key Achievements Highlighted in Report
1. The creation of a national voice and dedicated patient advocate to speak on behalf of those at risk or diagnosed with macular disease and provide ongoing support throughout their journey.
2. An increase in national awareness and education across all age groups of the need for regular eye tests, and recognising the symptoms of wet AMD. This includes a 40 per cent increase in those over 50 years of age understanding the importance of completing regular eye tests
3. The development of anti-VEGF treatments for the treatment of wet AMD.
4. The registration and swift reimbursement of anti-VEGF treatments to enable access for thousands of Australians at risk of blindness.
5. Fostering of a highly skilled and adaptable health professional community enabling world-leading care for those living with disease.
Government Support Highlighted
In a statement, Mr. Hunt said the Turnbull Government is committed to addressing vision loss and blindness in our communities with Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) subsidies for several medications used to treat AMD.
“Since 2013 the Turnbull Government has spent $1.67 billion on medication for aged-related macular disease through the PBS…. In 2016-17 alone the Government paid over $118 million in Medicare benefits for more than 400,000 eye injections for aged-related macular degeneration.”
A summary of The Journey to See: A Model for Success is available here. A copy of the full report is available upon request by contacting [email protected]