What Is the Social Cost of Blindness Caused by Wet AMD, Diabetic Macular Edema, and Diabetic Retinopathy?

Blindness may occur in patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic macular edema (DME), and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), but the societal cost of this is unclear. According to a study, blindness in this patient population is correlated with significant excess social costs, and more than half of the estimated social cost is attributed to indirect costs.

The researchers estimated excess costs that result from blindness as the difference in costs in blind versus non-blind patients. The number of cases of blindness attributed to wet AMD, DME, and PDR projected in 2020 were used to aggregate per-patient costs.

Annual excess direct costs associated with blindness caused by wet AMD, DME, and PDR per blind patient were $4,944, and indirect costs per blind patient were $54,614. Quality-adjusted life-years lost per blind patient was 0.214. The study authors projected there would be 246,423 cases of blindness attributed to wet AMD, DME, and PDR. When combining the estimates with the projected cases, the total societal costs in 2020 were estimated to be $20 billion—a figure the researchers predicted would triple by 2050.

“Excess social costs associated with blindness in individuals with [wet AMD], DME, and PDR are substantial, with more than half of the burden attributed to indirect costs,” the authors summarized.