Advocacy and outreach

ARVO study proves vision research investment saves billions

Taking a new step in its mission to increase funding for vision research, ARVO coauthored its first peer-reviewed paper, which quantifies how millions of dollars of investment in developing optical coherence tomography (OCT) has generated billions of dollars in savings for patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) and government-funded healthcare programs

The paper, which was made open access through special support from Research to Prevent Blindness, highlights the following:

  • $9 billion: Medicare savings from clinicians using OCT to optimize the injection schedule of anti-VEGF drugs for patients with wet AMD
  • $2.2 billion: Wet AMD patient savings from reduced spending on drug copays
  • $0.4 billion: Total investment over 20 years made by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to invent and develop the technology
  • 2,100%: Return on taxpayer investment

“While we are fortunate to have highly effective anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs that require injections every one to two months, at $2,000 per injection over a two-plus year treatment period, they are expensive,” says Philip Rosenfeld, MD, PhD, professor of ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and coauthor of the paper. “Any strategy that can save patients and Medicare money by reducing the number of injections, while preserving vision, would be embraced.”

Corresponding author David Huang, MD, PhD, FARVO, professor of ophthalmology at the Casey Eye Institute concurs. “Everyone understands that research leads to important advancements in medicine and technology,” he says. “But our paper is a rare example of being able to quantify the impact research can have, in this case via reduced healthcare spending. We have shown that return on research investment can be very high.”

In December 2017, ARVO hosted a briefing in conjunction with the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to release the paper and discuss its findings. Since December, ARVO has been actively sharing the paper’s conclusions with policymakers and other organizations in the vision community. In February 2018, in conjunction with the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR), ARVO members justified their request for additional support for the NIH and the National Eye Institute with the paper’s cost-savings conclusions during Advocacy Day.

The manuscript is the capstone to a two-year public awareness campaign by ARVO, called “Telling the Story of OCT.” Additional outputs related to the project include a series of public-friendly videos sharing OCT’s impact on patients, a special issue in IOVS and a one-page toolkit summarizing the technology’s impact on society. MW