Introduction: Glaucoma is a progressive optic neuropathy associated with neural rim loss of the optic disc and the retinal nerve fibre layer typically causing visual field (VF) deterioration. Generally, glaucomatous lesions in the eye and in the visual field progress slowly over the years. In population-based cross-sectional studies, the percentage of unilateral or bilateral visual impairment varied between 3-12%. In screening studies, 0.03-2.4% of patients have been found to suffer visual impairment. Glaucoma has previously been associated with substantial healthcare costs and resource consumption attributable to the treatment of the disease. The disease also causes reduction in health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in patients with glaucoma.
Objective and methods: This study compares patients with diagnosed open-angle glaucoma from two geographically different regions in Finland. A total of 168 patients were examined, 85 subjects from an area with higher per patient treatment costs (Oulu) and 83 patients from a region with lower per patient treatment costs (Turku). All patients had a history of continuous glaucoma medication use for a period of 11 years. For each patient, the total direct costs from glaucoma treatment were calculated and the total amount of resource consumption was determined from registries and patient records. Each patient underwent a clinical examination with visual field assessment and fundus photography. These data were used to determine the current stage of disease for each patient. Health-related quality of life questionnaire (15D) was used in determining each patient's subjective HRQoL score.
Results: When applying the current diagnostic criteria for open-angle glaucoma, a total of 40% of patients did not to display any structural or functional damage suggesting glaucoma after 11 years of continuous medical treatment and follow-up. Patients with higher glaucoma stage (worse disease) were found to have statistically higher treatment costs compared with those at lower disease stages. Resource consumption was also greater in the patients in higher glaucoma stage. Patients in the Oulu district consumed more resources, and glaucoma treatment was more expensive than in the Turku area. The total treatment cost in Oulu and Turku was 6010 € and 4452 €, respectively, for the whole 11-year period. There was no statistically significant difference in quality-of-life scores between the two areas. No difference was noted between the higher-spending and lower-spending areas in this respect. However, when the population was analysed as a whole, patients with higher glaucoma stage were found to have lower vision-based 15D scores compared with those at lower disease stages. This observation was made also at both districts independently.
Conclusions: Major cost source in open-angle glaucoma treatment is medication, up to 74% of annual costs. In addition, it seems that higher resource consumption and higher treatment costs do not increase the patients' HRQoL as assessed by the 15D instrument.
© 2013 The Author. Acta Ophthalmologica © 2013 Acta Ophthalmologica Scandinavica Foundation.