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Minister for Health, Greg Hunt

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By Helen Carter
Journalist

The Federal Government will invest $80 million in eye medications through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to improve and preserve the vision of thousands of Australians.

The move is expected to benefit about 4,500 patients a year who have retinal vein occlusion (RVO) or choroidal neovascularization.

Announcing the investment on Wednesday 24 October, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the investment would save patients up to $7,000 a year.

From 1 November 2018, patients will receive new subsidised treatment options including Ozurdex (dexamethasone) to treat blocked veins in the retina due to retinal vein occlusion (RVO).

Ozurdex prevents and suppresses inflammation which worsens the condition and the investment is expected to benefit about 3,300 patients per year who do not achieve improvement with other medicines.

Without the listing, the treatment would cost patients about $5,000 a year, or more than $1,350 per script. Under the PBS, patients will pay a maximum of $39.50 per script, with concessional patients, including pensioners, paying $6.40.

The current PBS listing for Lucentis will be expanded to patients with types of choroidal neovascularization not currently covered on the PBS. Choroidal neovascularization is associated with unwanted growth of new blood vessels in the eye that impact vision, including from pathological myopia.

Lucentis injections will also be listed for other types of rare choroidal neovascularisation not related to age-related macular degeneration.

The listing will mean an additional 1,200 patients a year will be able to access Lucentis. The medication would cost up to $7,000 a year without PBS subsidy but with the subsidy, patients will pay a maximum of $39.50 per script, with concessional patients paying $6.40.

Mr Hunt said the listings had the potential to preserve the precious sight of Australians and make treatment more affordable.

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