Awareness Campaign Alerts Canadians to be Vigilant About Eye Health

Nine in ten Canadians agree that patients suffer when treatment
decisions are influenced by drug cost

TORONTO, July 12, 2016 /CNW/ - Estimates suggest that more than 50,000 Canadians will lose their sight every year due to conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts and refractive error.i More than 5.5 million Canadians have a significant eye disease that could cause vision loss.ii Citing an impending crisis in vision health, the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) in collaboration with several partner organizations, today announced the launch of an awareness campaign to remind Canadians, especially those 45 years and older, that they need to be especially vigilant and engaged in the health of their eyes. 

Patients and physicians, in a recent survey commissioned by the IFA, reported that Canadians should have access to the most appropriate Health Canada-approved treatments for retinal and other conditions, irrespective of cost.


CNIB, using 2013 data, estimated the direct health costs of vision loss due to AMD and diabetic retinopathy to be $1.8 billion and $412 million per year respectively.iii Add to this the cost of falls, depression, hip fractures and nursing home admissions associated with vision loss are estimated to be $25.8 million, $175.2 million, $101.7 million and $713.6 million, respectively.iv

"Vision loss is not just about a physiological loss; there is often a cascade of losses that an individual and often their spouse or relative experiences," explains Louise Gillis, National President, Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). "In addition to diminished independence, vision loss has also been related to higher rates of unemployment, divorce and clinical depression.  Being more informed and engaged in eye health, including knowing about the full range treatments that can potentially treat and even restore vision loss is a "win-win" socially and economically."


While sharply focussed on issues related to protecting and maintaining vision health, the Eye See You campaign also focuses on the need for individuals and families to be fully informed and educated about the treatment options available to them.  The campaign addresses physicians as well, supporting their autonomy to decide the most appropriate, evidence-based treatment for their patient.  

"The Eye See You campaign recognizes the critical relationship between patients, including their family and doctors in discussing treatment options, making educated choices and helping remove barriers to the most appropriate treatment and care available," says Dr. Jane Barratt, Secretary General, International Federation on Ageing.  


Fortunately, many retinal conditions are treatable if the appropriate treatments are available and delivered in a timely manner.v "Timely access to the therapy is critical to maintaining vision health," says Dr. Barratt.  "Recent discussions about drugs used to treat retinal conditions has raised important questions about how therapies are accessed in Canada," she continues.  "Decisions to restrict access to any appropriate therapy should be based on scientific evidence and the real-word experience of stakeholders including patients, physicians and patient organizations, and not on cost savings."


Canadians insist that choice trumps cost.  According to two Ipsos surveys conducted in June 2016 – one of Canadians over the age of 45 and the other among medical specialists and family physicians there is strong agreement that a physician in consultation with the patient should be able to determine the most appropriate Health Canada-approved treatments for retinal and other conditions.  Cost may be a consideration but not at the expense of a person's vision and their function.

Survey Highlights:vi

  • Canadians are virtually unanimous (97%) in agreeing (71% strongly/26% somewhat) that they 'have a right to the best medications that are approved for use in Canada.'
  • Likewise, more than nine in ten (95%) agree (64% strongly/31% somewhat) that their physician 'should have the right to prescribe the best medication regardless of the cost to the healthcare system.'
  • Nine in ten Canadians (90%) agree (47% strongly/44% somewhat) that 'patients suffer when treatment decisions are influenced by the cost of a medication', and two in three (67%) agree (18% strongly/49% somewhat) that 'doctors feel pressure to prescribe drugs based on the cost to the healthcare system.'

Most of the medical specialists and family physicians that were surveyed agreed that therapeutic recommendations based on cost containment restrict their autonomy as medical professionals to be able to determine the appropriate treatment for their patient.  Three-quarters of those surveyed also say they have witnessed a patient's health suffer at some point in the past year because they were unable to afford better medications.  

Survey Highlights:vii

  • More than nine in ten doctors (93%) say that 'being unable to prescribe the most appropriate treatment because of cost is a barrier to good patient care.'
  • Nine in ten doctors (91%) agree (49% strongly/42% somewhat) that overall quality of life of patients is negatively affected when treatment choice is impacted by cost, while 90% agree (57% strongly/33% somewhat) they should be able to prescribe the most effective medication for patients regardless of cost.
  • Eight in ten doctors (83%) agree (36% strongly/47% somewhat) that the cost of certain drugs regularly prevents them from prescribing the best medication for their patients.

"As a physician working with patients and their families to understand a diagnosis and to help them find the best treatment for their eye condition, it is frustrating to have to tell them that the best treatment for them might be out of reach because of what our healthcare system is willing to pay for," explains Dr. David Wong, MD, FRCSC, Ophthalmologist-in-Chief, Diseases and Surgery of the Vitreous, Retina, Macula and Choroid, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, St. Michael's Hospital. "This leads to outcomes as avoidable and regrettable as blindness when the right treatment at the right time is denied to patients, and could maintain their eyesight."

For more information about the Eye See You campaign, please visit  

About the IFA

The International Federation on Ageing is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) with its headquarters in Toronto, Canada.  Its goal is to be a global point of connection of experts and expertise that help to contribute to the dialogue on effective policy towards healthy aging. 

i i
ii ii
iii Canadian Council of the Blind, Canadian National Institute of the Blind, and the Foundation Fighting Blindness (2015). Patient Summary.
iv Canadian Council of the Blind, Canadian National Institute of the Blind, and the Foundation Fighting Blindness (2015). Patient Summary.
v Angiogenesis Foundation (2012). Advocating for improved treatment and outcomes for wet age-related macular degeneration.
vi Ipsos Survey, June 2016
vii Ipsos Survey, June 2016

SOURCE International Federation on Ageing

Image with caption: "Survey: Canadians and physicians re vision health and access to medication (CNW Group/International Federation on Ageing)". Image available at:

For further information: Media contact: energi PR, James Thayer, 416-425-9143 ext 208,

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