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Treating glaucoma early lowers economic burden

derstand the relationship of patients' use of health resources to severity of disease.

They analyzed 151 randomly selected records of adult patients (average age was 66.3 years) with different severities of primary open-angle or normal tension glaucoma, as well as those suspected of having either glaucoma or ocular hypertension. They obtained records from 12 study sites throughout the U.S.

The researchers categorized patient records according to the severity of the patients' glaucoma. For each stage of severity, the researchers obtained economic data on the cost of the patients' use of eye care visits, visual field and other diagnostic testing, treatment procedures, rehabilitation services, as well as prescribed medications. While the researchers based medication costs used in the study on wholesale prices, they said actual costs might be higher because consumers typically pay more than the wholesale cost.

"We know that for chronic diseases such as glaucoma, people don't use their medications as frequently as recommended by their physician," said Lee. "We took this into account in our study, but we suspect that the true costs of medication use could be even greater than we found."

The researchers found that aggressiveness of glaucoma treatment increased over time with worsening of the disease, except for patients with end-stage glaucoma. That aggressiveness is likely to drop off in patients who have gone blind from glaucoma because treatment options for those patients may not offer significant benefits, said Lee.

"Since our data were collected, additional treatments have become available," Lee added. "However, these medications are fairly expensive. Ultimately, it may cost patients and society more to care for patients in earlier stages of the disease but over the long-term, when managed correctly and effectively, glaucoma patients can retain more of their vision and therefore remain more productive with a presumably h
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Contact: Tracey Koepke
koepk002@mc.duke.edu
919-684-4148
Duke University Medical Center
9-Jan-2006


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