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Drug for two leading causes of NZ blindness now funded

Treatment to tackle the country’s two leading causes of blindness[1],[2] now funded on the Pharmaceutical Schedule
• EYLEA® (aflibercept) is available under PHARMAC funding from 1 June for the treatment of Wet Age Related Macular Degeneration (wet-AMD) and Diabetic Macular Oedema (DMO)1
• Wet-AMD is the leading cause of blindness in New Zealand1
• DMO is the leading cause of blindness in working-age New Zealanders disproportionately affecting Māori and Pacific Islanders1,2

Auckland, May 31, 2018 – Bayer has announced that from 1 June, EYLEA® (aflibercept) will be accessible as the second-line treatment option for Wet Age Related Macular Degeneration (wet-AMD) and Diabetic Macular Oedema (DMO) and will be made available in both hospitals and the community. PHARMAC funding was granted earlier this month and is expected to benefit around 900 people in its first year.1

Retina specialist and ophthalmologist, Dr Dianne Sharp says the approval from PHARMAC is a step forward for improved outcomes for people at risk of preventable blindness.

“It is excellent to have the availability and funding of EYLEA for patients with age related macular degeneration or diabetic macular oedema who have not responded to other treatment options. I have used it on a number of patients over the past five years and it has helped improve or at least stabilise the vision of patients who were losing vision. To have it more readily available as an affordable treatment option is a welcomed outcome for both patients and clinicians,” she says.

“Blindness from macular degeneration no longer needs to be an inevitable part of the ageing process,” says ophthalmologist and retinal specialist, Dr Andrew Thompson of Macular Degeneration New Zealand.

“With improved access to EYLEA, I now have a significantly better chance of improving, or at least maintaining, a patient’s vision and independence when other treatments are ineffective. I believe every patient has a right to sight and now financial circumstances won’t dictate a person’s access - PHARMAC’s decision to fund EYLEA has made this achievable.”

Bayer Pharmaceutical’s General Manager for Australia and New Zealand, Nelson Ambrogio said he was delighted with the news.

“Bayer welcomes PHARMAC’s decision to fund EYLEA. The impact this will have for people living with the debilitating disease of wet age related macular degeneration and diabetic macular oedema will be significant. This is an important milestone for New Zealand and a step in the right direction in treating the two leading causes of blindness in the country.” 1,2

Wet-AMD is the most common cause of blindness in New Zealand.2,[3] One in seven people over the age of 50 is affected by the illness and numbers are expected to rise with the country’s ageing population.[2],[4] If untreated, most patients will become blind within two years.[2]

DMO is a condition resulting from complications of type 1 and type 2 diabetes and is the leading cause of blindness in people aged 25-74.[1] Over 240,000 people have been diagnosed with diabetes in New Zealand, with 100,000 more suspected to be undiagnosed. A disproportionate number are of Māori and Pacific Island descent with the rate of the illness two to three times higher than other ethnicities.2,[5],[6] All people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2) are at risk of contracting DMO, but with early detection and timely treatment, vision loss can be prevented.[2]

The introduction of EYLEA as an alternative treatment for patients with wet-AMD and DMO provides more cost-effective options and reduces potential discomfort, as EYLEA requires less frequent injections for ongoing treatment.[1]

About EYLEA ®
EYLEA is a FDA and Medsafe approved novel recombinant fusion protein which works by trapping excess vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in the eye and has a higher binding affinity for VEGF than natural receptors have. Trapping excess VEGF limits the growth of abnormal blood vessels and hence reduces leakage. Treatment is administered via intraocular injection. After initial dosage, treatment plans can be tailored to each patient.[7]

Bayer: Science For A Better Life
Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the Life Science fields of health care and agriculture. Its products and services are designed to benefit people and improve their quality of life. At the same time, the Group aims to create value through innovation, growth and high earning power. Bayer is committed to the principles of sustainable development and to its social and ethical responsibilities as a corporate citizen. In New Zealand, we support numerous community and environmental causes, including United Way New Zealand, the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre and the New Zealand Innovation Awards.

[1] PHARMAC (2018), ‘Thousands of Kiwis will benefit from advances in treatment’,, last accessed 28 May 2018.
[2] Access Economics Pty Ltd (2010), ‘Clear Focus – The economic impact of vision loss in New Zealand in 2009’,, last accessed 28 May 2018.
[3] Macular Degeneration New Zealand (2018), ‘Home’,, last accessed 28 May 2018.
[4] Statistics New Zealand (2016), ‘National Population Projections: 2016 (base)-2068’,, last accessed 28 May 2018.
[5] Ministry of Health (2013), ‘Diabetes’,, last accessed 28 May 2018.
[6] PHARMAC (2018), ‘Decision to fund aflibercept and rivaroxaban’,, last accessed 28 May 2018.
[7] Medsafe (2016), ‘EYLEA Data Sheet’, data on file, last accessed 28 May 2018.

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