This heartbreaking scenario is the harsh reality forced on some of our province's most vulnerable citizens – especially seniors – due to the provincial government's cap on intravitreal eye injections.
The cap is not only short-sighted, it is causing avoidable blindness because ongoing treatment is available for all Canadians – except if you live in Newfoundland & Labrador.
Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province that puts a cap on treatment: 15 injections to treat people with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD), and nine injections for people with diabetic macular edema.
Once provincial coverage runs out, you pay out of pocket. If you can't afford the $1,800 per injection, you risk losing your sight. Senior citizens – many of whom are on fixed incomes – have difficulty affording treatment and lose all of the benefits they've gained through the initial treatment course.
The government of Newfoundland & Labrador seems to have lost sight of the cost of vision loss. When someone loses their vision, not only is there a financial burden placed on the individual and their family members, there is also a cost to our provincial health care system.
Blindness can significantly increase the incidence of falls, fractures, medication errors and depression. Treatment to prevent blindness reduces pressures on the health care system before they reach a critical stage requiring caregivers, and admission to hospitals, nursing homes and residential care facilities.
The CNIB Foundation is urging the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to do the right thing: remove the cap on the number of intravitreal injections for citizens losing their sight to AMD and diabetic macular edema.
Revisiting the caps on intravitreal anti-VEGF injections has the potential to preserve sight, ensure that the province’s investments in initial treatment persist over the long term, and limit the visual disability and societal costs associated with these diseases.
Dr. Sarah Hutchens is Chair of CNIB Newfoundland and Labrador Foundation's Board and a practising optometrist in St. John's.