The Macular Disease Foundation Australia has launched its latest report at an event at Canberra House, attended by The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, Foundation Patron, Ita Buttrose AO OBE and Professor Paul Mitchell AO.
“The Journey to See: A Model for Success” examines anti-VEGF treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration and the impact over the past ten years.
Speaking of the report, Mr. Hunt said, “It 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”. Additionally, he said it, “shows Australia is a world-class leader in fighting macular disease”.
Foundation supporter Bayer also acknowledged the importance of the report, which showcases how a collaboration, led by the Foundation together with the Government, the clinical community, research groups and industry has helped achieve positive outcomes for Australians living with wet AMD.
It is truly remarkable that we now have a treatment that can stop the disease in its tracks and prevent people from becoming blind
“Bayer is committed to the development and supply of innovative treatments for eye disease, however as a pharmaceutical company I believe we have the opportunity to do more to support patients,” said Nelson Ambrogio, General Manager Pharmaceuticals at Bayer.
“This is why we continue to work with organisations such as the Macular Disease Foundation Australia to enable programs that raise awareness of eye conditions and support patients through their health journey.”
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.
The report is available from Macular Disease Foundation Australia.
Government Supports National Strategic Action Plan
At the launch, Mr. Hunt 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”.
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.”