This paper reviews the burden and economic consequences of glaucoma upon healthcare systems and patients, especially elderly patients. An extensive review of the literature was conducted, primarily using MEDLINE, but also by examining selected article reference lists, relevant websites and the proceedings of specialised conferences. All relevant articles and documents were analysed.
Glaucoma is characterised by destruction of the optic nerve. It is most often a continuous, chronic eye disease and the most frequent diagnosis is primary open angle glaucoma (POAG). POAG is mostly associated with intraocular hypertension which can be delayed by medication, surgery or laser therapy.
The prevalence rate of glaucoma is about 1% in the population >50 years of age. The rate increases with age and is higher in Black and Hispanic populations. Glaucoma affects more than 67 million people worldwide. Cost-of-illness studies have shown the importance of this disease, on which more than £300 million was spent in the UK in 2002. Most of the costs (45%) were associated with direct medical costs, but direct nonmedical costs (20%) and indirect costs (35%) were also not negligible. Recent economic studies have shown a dramatic increase in the number of patients with glaucoma receiving treatment but a reduction in use of surgical procedures to treat the condition, especially as first-line therapy. The greater part of medical expenditure is now on medication, with new, more potent, better tolerated, but more costly drugs replacing older and less expensive medications. Treatment costs are directly related to the severity of disease and the number of different treatments used; they are also negatively correlated with treatment efficacy in reducing intraocular pressure. However, long-term economic benefits that may be associated with use of more potent new drugs (by delaying institutionalisation) have never been documented. Glaucoma screening has also been found not to be cost effective, although these results should be reconsidered in the light of new data.
Glaucoma Latanoprost Ocular Hypertension Bimatoprost Visual Field Loss
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This work was supported by a grant from Alcon Laboratories. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this study.
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