AMD patients 'to be treated earlier'

Charity welcomes NICE recommendation for patients to receive treatment before they have to stop driving

Kathy Yelf

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended that patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are treated before their vision falls below the legal driving standard.

Welcoming the recommendation that has been included in the new clinical guideline on the diagnosis and management of AMD, national sight loss charity, the Macular Society, said it “reinforces some important areas of care for AMD patients.”

Currently, patients with AMD whose vision is better than the legal driving standard are not eligible to receive treatment because their sight is deemed “too good to treat,” the charity highlighted. Yet, evidence in the new guideline demonstrates that treating patients with wet AMD can be both clinically and cost effective.

The new guideline recommends that people with wet AMD are offered treatment within 14 days of a referral to the macula service.

The guideline also includes recommendations on non-drug strategies to manage AMD.

Chief executive of the Macular Society, Cathy Yelf (pictured), said: “Currently, many patients are forced to wait until their vision deteriorates below the legal driving level, but the guideline is clear that earlier treatment can be cost-effective.”

Chair of the guideline committee, GP Waqaar Shah, emphasised: “People with AMD can feel isolated and are at increased risk of depression. It is important they are given the right support at the right time to help them with this condition. This new guideline will help ensure therapeutic, social and psychological support is available to help patients in their daily lives.”

NICE recommends that NHS organisations compare their current practice with the new guideline and consider what changes need to be made to it in practice. The speed at which these recommendations are adopted by local NHS services will depend on the resources they have available and the other priorities they are dealing with.

Ms Yelf added: “We hope that all eye care professionals will implement its recommendations at once.”