Albertans suffering from vision loss now have three different treatment options to choose from, all of which are fully covered under Alberta's health plan, announced Health Minister Sarah Hoffman Wednesday.
The provincial government has expanded its pilot program that treats macular degeneration and other retinal conditions, which is known as the Retina Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Program for Intraocular Disease (RAPID).
Since last fall, it had covered the cost of two medications, Lucentis and Avastin. The province added a third option called Eylea on Aug. 1.
The RAPID program and prescription drugs are provided at no cost, so patients have no out-of-pocket co-payments for their treatments.
"These treatments help preserve and, in some cases, improve people's vision, which has an impact on their quality of life," said retinal specialist Amin Kherani.
'It means a lot to me'
Rebecca Bailer, who is diabetic and gets regular injections of Eylea to preserve her vision and avoid surgery, said her treatment would cost roughly $1,000 every six weeks without this coverage.
"It's something that I'm really actually proud of to be an Albertan, saying that they're doing this to save people's eyesight, because it's a really important thing. It means a lot to me."
The RAPID project began in October 2015 and has treated more than 14,000 Albertans to date, saving approximately $3.4 million in co-payments, said Hoffman.
The province says this program has saved more than $20 million in tax dollars by offering a wider range of medication options that are less expensive but as effective.
It says no additional costs or savings are anticipated now that Eylea is covered, because initial estimates included the medication.