The average glaucoma patient spends about $1,900 a year treating the condition. Photo: Michael Chaglasian, OD, and Sarah B. Klein, OD.
The average glaucoma patient spends about $1,900 a year treating the condition. Photo: Michael Chaglasian, OD, and Sarah B. Klein, OD. Click image to enlarge.

In addition to coping with a sight-threatening disease, glaucoma patients also have a substantial economic healthcare burden, with the cost of their prescription medications taking the biggest financial toll, a recent study in the Journal of Glaucoma suggests. The investigation reported that glaucoma patients have to pay about $1,900 each year to treat their condition.

“Glaucoma places a significant incremental healthcare burden on the US healthcare system, more than nine billion dollars annually after adjusting for sociodemographics and comorbidities,” says researcher and resident Chandru Rasendran. “When comparing expenditures for patients based on the healthcare service sector, expenditures for prescription medications, which are crucial to maintaining intraocular pressures and vision for patients, are significantly higher for patients with glaucoma. It’s important to continue exploring cost-effective interventions to preserve and improve vision for these patients in the future.”

The investigation also found glaucoma patients tend to be female, elderly, publicly insured with Medicare or Medicaid, college-educated, non-Hispanic, residents of the Northeast and more comorbidity-stricken.

The research team from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the Cole Eye Institute in Cleveland analyzed the responses of Medical Expenditure Panel Survey participants from 2016 through 2018. All participants were over 18 years old, and roughly 1,520 had glaucoma and 4,500 were healthy.

Considering patients with glaucoma, the authors found no differences in healthcare burden based on sex, income, insurance status, education and year of care received.

Further research comparing expenditures and visual outcomes for patients who undergo lasers and MIGS is also warranted to understand the economic benefits of these procedures relative to medications, the researchers added.

Rasendran C, Li A, Singh RP. Incremental healthcare expenditures associated with glaucoma in the United States: a propensity score matched analysis. J Glaucoma. November 12, 2021. [Epub ahead of print].