09/30/2015 05:38 EDT | Updated 09/30/2015 05:59 EDT

Alberta Government Introduces Eye Care Pilot Project

Government of Alberta/Flickr

EDMONTON — The Alberta government has announced a new pilot project that it says will provide more treatment options for Albertans suffering from vision loss, and save patients approximately $300 every year.

Albertans will be able to choose treatment with either Lucentis or Avastin, both of which treat age-related macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema, retinal vein occlusion and other retinal conditions as of Thursday.

Under the program, the Alberta government will cover the cost of Avastin to prevent vision loss.

The will be no co-payment for patients under the program, which will save seniors $25 per injection, or $300 per year for most patients.

These patients will also be able to receive treatment directly from their doctors, simplifying their access to treatments.

An estimated 7,000 Albertans will be eligible to participate in the pilot project, based on advice from their physicians.

As part of the project, the Retina Society of Alberta will lead a monitoring program, which will include data collection on the effectiveness of the treatment.

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says the program will save taxpayers between $23 to $46 million over the next three years.

"This program is an opportunity to expand treatment options while saving patients money and freeing up tax dollars at the same time,'' Hoffman said in a news release.

Dr. Paul Savage, president of the Retina Society of Alberta, said this is good news for patients with retinal disease and the taxpayer.

"This new program for the treatment of blinding retinal diseases will expand access to all Albertans while allowing access to new medications when they become available. We believe that this collaborative model between physicians and government will serve to maximize patient care.''

Avastin is being used across North America as a lower cost drug for treating retinal conditions. The cost of providing Avastin is $13 to $50 per treatment, while the cost of Lucentis is $1,575 per treatment.

Six other provinces and territories cover the cost of Avastin for this purpose.

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