Thousands risk going blind over lack of funds

By Farnham Herald in Health

HUNDREDS of thousands of people will lose their sight unless urgent action is taken to fund medical research, a charity has warned.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the biggest cause of blindness in the South East, currently affecting more than 80,000 people. According to a report by Hampshire-based charity the Macular Society, that figure is expected to more than double by 2050 to 1.3million – equivalent to 400 new cases every day.

AMD is currently incurable and largely untreatable. A progressive disease, it can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, leaving them unable to drive, read or see faces.

The report ‘Age-related macular degeneration: collaborating to find a cure’, reveals the lack of investment in AMD and highlights the fact that of the £22.7million spent on eye disease medical research in 2014, just £6million was spent on AMD.

The report recommends bringing researchers together in a unified approach to AMD research, and securing a new funding model to support it.

“This is an urgent public health issue,” said Tom McInulty, the society’s south east regional manager.

“Unless strong action is taken right away we will be facing an epidemic in the decades to come. AMD is almost as prevalent as dementia and represents a huge cost, care and societal burden, yet it does not receive a level of research funding proportionate to its impact.

“Alongside the devastating personal consequences of sight loss, AMD costs the UK £1.6billion annually.

“The drug costs alone are now more than £200 million a year and the number of people with AMD is expected to double by 2050.”

Endorsing the report, Andrew Lotery, Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Southampton, said: “It is vital that we do research to develop better treatments for AMD.”

Labour peer the Rt Hon Lord Blunkett has backed the report, together with celebrities including Channel 4’s ‘A Place in the Sun’ presenter, Jasmine Harman, whose grandmother had AMD, and cricket commentator Henry Blofeld, a patron of the Macular Society, who has experienced sight problems himself.

• To find out more about the work of the Macular Society visit www.macularsociety.org

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