Thousands of patients in need of life-changing eye medication and treatment will be better off from November 1, when popular treatments are made available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
The government has invested $80 million in eye medications through the PBS, meaning Aussies will save up to $7,000 a year for treatments that preserve and improve vision. For those living with retinal vein occlusion – a condition where blocked veins in the retina impact vision – the price of drug Ozurdex (dexamethasone) will be dramatically reduced.
The medication works by preventing and suppressing inflammation that makes the condition worse and will benefit 3,300 patients who will have access to medication now it’s cheaper. The medication previously cost $5,000 a year and more than $1,350 per script before being added to the PBS, but patients will now pay $39.50 per script or $6.40 if they’re a concession or pensioner.
Similarly, the current PBS listing for medication Lucentis will be expanded for patients living with types of choroidal neovascularization that weren’t previously covered by the PBS. Lucentis is an injection in the eye that can improve eyesight by managing growths of new blood vessels in the eyes that impact vision. This includes people impacted by pathological myopia – a type of extremely acute near-sightedness – as well as other types of rare choroidal neovascularization that isn’t related to age-based macular degeneration.
An additional 1,200 people a year will now be able to access the treatment, which cost $7,000 a year before being added to the PBS. Like Ozurdex, patients will pay just $39.50 per script or $6.40 if they’re a pensioner or concession card holder.
These conditions are all forms of macular degeneration, which is currently Australia’s leading cause of legal blindness. Together, they are responsible for around half of all cases of blindness.
“These listings have the potential to preserve the precious sight of Australians and make it more affordable,” Minister for Health Greg Hunt said in a statement. “It will make a difference to patients and their families who are battling poor and deteriorating vision due to a range of diseases.”
Eye medication isn’t the only treatment to see its price slashed in recent months, with life-changing arthritis medication set to become available on the PBS from December. Around 4,000 people who suffer from active non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis will save thousands of dollars per script when the price of medication Simponi (Golimumab) is slashed dramatically. Instead of paying more than $1,300 per script, patients will pay less than $40 for a monthly injection.
Hunt previously announced the price of 226 popular medicines had also been reduced, benefiting more than 800,000 people around the country. During that price-slash, high blood pressure medication, epilepsy and neuropathic medication, and drugs used to control glaucoma all had their costs reduced, saving patients around $200 a year.
In addition, a further 300 medicine brands dropped their prices by 40 per cent in April, benefiting people living with high blood pressure, depression, digestive disorders and even those living with certain types of cancer. The Government also announced in March it would subsidise the costs for 11 other medicines used to treat cancer, arthritis, diabetes, asthma and eye disease, saving these patients hundreds, and in many cases thousands of dollars per year.