16,000 people a year in England are being condemned to blindness because health bodies are refusing to fund a treatment that could save their sight. This is the shocking message contained in a report launched by leading charities at a reception in Parliament attended by local MP Rosie Cooper. The report, suggests that 90 per cent of PCTs have so far failed to fund the treatment.
Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are responsible for funding anti-VEGF drugs, the only treatments for all types of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – the leading cause of sight loss in the UK. Currently, only one anti-VEGF drug is licensed in the UK – Macugen, which became available in May 2006.
Rosie Cooper MP said:
“I am shocked to learn that people all over England are unnecessarily losing their sight when a treatment is available that can prevent blindness through wet AMD. I will be holding urgent discussions with our PCT to find out whether they are providing this vital treatment for local people at risk of going blind through AMD”.
Steve Winyard, Head of Campaigns at the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) and co-author of the report, said:
“This report confirms what we have long suspected and what patients have been telling us: that PCTs are refusing to fund a licensed treatment, even though it could save patients’ sight. Fifty people a day are being condemned to blindness - the actions of the PCTs are simply unacceptable.”
Shockingly, the report reveals that most PCTs are waiting until a patient has lost their sight in one eye before considering treatment. Others are waiting for guidance from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), due in August 2007, before they fund the treatment – yet the Department of Health advised that patients should not be refused treatment on this basis.
AMD Alliance UK is calling on PCTs to expand their services and provide speedy access to anti-VEGF treatments now.
Steve Winyard continued: “Health officials are only fooling themselves if they think they can save money by refusing to fund anti-VEGF treatments. The cost to the state of supporting someone with sight loss far outweighs the cost of treatment."
“We have a real chance now to turn wet AMD, which devastates so many lives, into a largely treatable condition. But only if it is detected and treated promptly.”