Bascom Palmer Researcher Presents OCT’s Cost-Saving Results to Congress

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) has saved Medicare $9 billion by reducing the frequency of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor injections used to treat patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to Philip Rosenfeld, M.D., Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, part of the University of Miami Health System.

“OCT monitoring significantly reduces the need for costly injections for wet AMD,”
Rosenfeld told a Congressional delegation at a December 7 briefing organized by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). “Over the past 20 years, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation have invested about $400 million in OCT research. Since the Medicare savings were in excess of 21 times that funding, it’s clear that investments in basic vision research reap huge rewards and can more than pay for themselves.”

A long-time leader in the development of wet-AMD treatments as well as OCT technology, Rosenfeld was a co-author of the recent study, “Estimating Public and Patient Savings From Basic Research — A Study of Optical Coherence Tomography in Managing Antiangiogenic Therapy,” in the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

“Dr. Rosenfeld has been at the forefront of clinical research and care for the past 20 years, and he isn’t slowing down. Not only has he saved vision in countless numbers of patients worldwide, but due to his efforts, he has saved government health care providers billions and billions of dollars through his pioneering work with Avastin and OCT-guided therapy,” said Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., chair of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

Patients receiving anti-VEGF drug injections and OCT imaging under Medicare Part B also benefited from an estimated savings of $2.2 billion in copays, along with the $9 billion return to the U.S. government.

“OCT imaging allowed clinicians to personalize individual treatment protocols so that clinicians could manage their patients’ AMD by using significantly fewer injections of anti-VEGF drugs compared with the number of injections if the FDA-approved label had been followed,” Rosenfeld said. “In addition, patient burden is reduced through fewer trips to the clinic and needles into the eye, while physicians benefit from having timely information on treatment efficacy with which to advise patients and then personalize management decisions.”

Meanwhile, OCT manufacturing has grown to be a sizable industry in its own right, supporting thousands of private-sector jobs in a market with a revenue of $750 million a year, according to the study.

ARVO President Claude Burgoyne, M.D., and Eric Swanson, M.S., co-inventor of OCT, joined Rosenfeld in presenting the paper’s findings to U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) and other Congressional delegates at the briefing, cosponsored by the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research. “While many news headlines highlight the cost of medicine, OCT is an example of an innovative technology that makes health care more affordable,” Rosenfeld said.

The vision specialists urged Congress to pass a bipartisan budget agreement for FY2018 that would enable a $2 billion NIH increase to a funding level of $36.1 billion, and a $26 million National Eye Institute (NEI) increase to a funding level of $759 million — as proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Sight-saving research, primarily funded through the NEI, is responsible for numerous therapies that help prevent patients from losing vision,” Rosenfeld said. “We believe Congressional funding is vital for helping NIH/NEI build upon past basic and clinical research that has accelerated the development of life-changing cures, train the next generation of scientists, drive the nation’s economy by creating jobs and economic growth, and maintain U.S. leadership in global innovation.”

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