If your patient with ocular hypertension is over age 45 and expects to live for at least 18 years, then treating glaucoma at $50,000 to $100,000 per year is cost-effective, according to a study in May’s Archives of Ophthalmology. But patients who are over age 55 must expect to live for at least 21 years, and those over the age of 65 must have a life expectancy of 23 years for treatment to be cost-effective.

Bottom line: If a patient with ocular hypertension has a 2% or greater risk of developing glaucoma, then the patient’s minimum life expectancy for treatment to be cost-effective is 18 years. If a patient is at a higher level of risk, then an additional seven to 10 years of life expectancy is required to make treatment cost-effective.

The researchers note that their results are based on very specific age-based subgroups. “Since we have found differences in the cost-effectiveness based on a person’s age, it is possible that differences in cost effectiveness will exist for other subgroups such as sex or race,” they write. “At the same time, it is unclear how these characteristics may affect the progression of disease or other factors influencing cost-effectiveness.”

Kymes SM, Plotze MR, Kass MA, et al. Effect of patient’s like expectancy on the cost-effectiveness of treatment for ocular hypertension. Arch Ophthalmol. 2010 May;128(5):613-8.