11/08/2013 02:28 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 10:53 EST

Nova Scotia government expanding coverage for retinal disease treatments

HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government says two new groups of patients with chronic retina disease will now have certain treatments covered under the provincial drug program.

Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine says people with diabetic macular edema and retinal vein occlusion will be covered for Lucentis and Avastin through Pharmacare as of Tuesday.

The treatment is already covered for people living with wet age-related macular degeneration, a condition that can cause vision loss.

A spokesman at the department says the expanded coverage will cost $1 million and affect about 700 people who are part of the seniors, family or Community Services Pharmacare programs.

Diabetic macular edema causes fluid to leak into the eye, resulting in blindness, while retinal vein occlusion is caused by restricted blood supply to the eye, and may also lead to blindness.

The treatments are available through hospital-based clinics and retinal specialists, but Glavine says they may be expanded to other sites across Nova Scotia.