The Australian government will provide $150,000 funding for the development of a national action plan to better support patients with macular disease, the leading cause of vision loss among older Australians, it was announced during Macular Degeneration Awareness Week.
The action plan will provide a streamlined approach to the treatment and management of the disease across Australia and will be a roadmap to deliver better outcomes for patients, federal health minister Mr Greg Hunt said when announcing the additional funding.
A Macular Disease Foundation Australia report released on 22 May 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.
About one in seven Australians or 1.25 million people aged 50 years and over, show some evidence of macular degeneration. The disease also affects young people.
The government is addressing vision loss and blindness in our communities.
For example, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme subsidies several medications used in the treatment of aged-related macular disease. Since 2013 the government has spent $1.67 billion on medication for aged-related macular disease through the PBS.
Specific services in relation to the treatment of macular degeneration are also available through Medicare, such as in 2016-17 the Government paid over $118 million in Medicare benefits for more than 400,000 eye injections for aged-related macular degeneration.
The $150,000 funding for the action plan is in addition to the $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.
‘Addressing chronic disease’
Ms Dee Hopkins, chief executive officer of the MDFA sees the action plan as a “great step” forward in addressing the chronic disease, “Mr Hunt has shown 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 health-care system. The National Strategic Action Plan will help us prepare, prioritise and invest wisely to support the macular disease community.”
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. Mr Hunt was joined by MDFA’s patron, Ita Buttrose and Professor Paul Mitchell, ophthalmologist and sight-saving researcher.
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. It outlines how collaboration between government, healthcare professionals, research agencies, the pharmaceutical industry and the MDFA has delivered a continuum of care for Australians – from awareness and prevention to management and support of those living with AMD.