Government Introduces New Eye Care Program, Saving Millions for Patients and Taxpayers

Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman has announced a new pilot project that will provide more treatment options for Albertans suffering from vision loss, and will save patients approximately $300 every year.

Province Eye Care ProgramThe program will also save taxpayers between $23 –$46 million over the next three years, as patients are able to choose a less expensive treatment option. The government is launching the Retina Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Program for Intraocular Disease (RAPID) in partnership with the Retina Society of Alberta.

“This project is an excellent example of government and health professionals partnering in an innovative way to provide better, more convenient care to Albertans, while also saving millions of health dollars. This program is an opportunity to expand treatment options while saving patients money and freeing up tax dollars at the same time.”

~ Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health

“The members of the Retina Society of Alberta wish to congratulate Alberta Health and the Government of Alberta in making the RAPID program a reality. This new program for the treatment of blinding retinal diseases will expand access to all Albertans while allowing access to new medications when they become available. We believe that this collaborative model between physicians and government will serve to maximize patient care. This is very good news for patients with retinal disease and also for the taxpayer.”

~ Dr. Paul Savage, President, Retina Society of Alberta

Effective October 1, Albertans will be able to choose treatment with either Lucentis or Avastin, both of which treat age-related macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema, retinal vein occlusion and other retinal conditions.

Under the program, the Alberta government will cover the cost of Avastin to prevent vision loss for the first time. There will be no co-payment for patients under the program, which will save seniors $25 per injection, or $300 per year for most patients. These patients will also be able to receive treatment directly from their doctors, simplifying their access to treatments. An estimated 7,000 Albertans will be eligible to participate in the pilot project, based on advice from their physicians.

As part of the project, the Retina Society of Alberta will lead a monitoring program, which will include data collection on the effectiveness of the treatment.

Avastin is being used across North America as a lower cost drug for treating retinal conditions. The cost of providing Avastin is $13 to $50 per treatment, while the cost of Lucentis is $1,575 per treatment. As more Albertans choose Avastin, this is expected to save government between $23 million and $46 million over the next three years. Physicians have treated eye conditions with Avastin for many years for these off-label uses and good clinical evidence supports this practice. Six other provinces and territories cover the cost of Avastin for this purpose.