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The rising cost of glaucoma drugs in Ireland 1996–2003
  1. F A Knox1,2,
  2. M Barry3,
  3. B McGowan3,
  4. C O’Brien2
  1. 1Department of Ophthalmology, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
  2. 2Department of Ophthalmology, Mater Misericordiae, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  3. 3National Centre of Pharmacoeconomics, St James Hospital, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  1. Correspondence to: Dr F A Knox Department of Ophthalmology, Royal Victoria Hospital, Grosvenor Road, Belfast BT12 6BA, UK; angelaknox{at}


Background: Glaucoma affects approximately 2% of the population in developed countries and is estimated to affect 67 million people worldwide. The authors investigated the effect of the introduction of new medications on the volume and cost of drugs for glaucoma in two countries, Northern Ireland (NI, population approximately 1.7 million) and the Republic of Ireland (ROI, population approximately 3.9 million) in the 8 years from 1996 to 2003. They also looked at the surgical rates for glaucoma within the same time period for the two countries.

Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed of drug costs, prescribing data, and operation rates for glaucoma in Ireland from January 1996 to December 2003. Information regarding costs and volume were obtained for each type of glaucoma drug and these were then grouped into the glaucoma treatment subsections as found in the British National Formulary. The drug information was obtained from the Central Services Agency in NI and IMS Health in the ROI and included both public and private prescriptions. The information on surgical rates for glaucoma was obtained from the Department of Health and Social Services in NI and the Hospital In-patient Enquiry (HIPE) data national files in the ROI.

Results: There was a 30% increase in prescription items for glaucoma in NI and a 59% increase in the ROI from 1996 to 2003. The costs increased more rapidly than the number of items: 227% in the ROI and 78% in NI from January 1996 to December 2003. In the ROI, there was an average 19% year on year increase in costs. In NI, new drugs accounted for 40% of the quantity of prescription items for glaucoma and 63% of the market cost in 2003. In the ROI new drugs accounted for 57% of the quantity and 77% of the market cost for glaucoma in 2003; prostaglandin analogue drugs alone accounted for 53% of the cost. The number of trabeculectomies performed decreased by more than 60% in both countries.

Conclusion: Volume and cost of glaucoma drugs increased dramatically in both NI and the ROI from 1996 to 2003, probably the result of a combination of changing demographics and a changing approach towards the management of patients with glaucoma and ocular hypertension. In 2003 in the ROI, prostaglandin analogues were the most commonly prescribed class of drug for patients with glaucoma and/or ocular hypertension causing a profound rise in drug expenditure.

  • CAI, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors
  • HIPE, Hospital In-patient Enquiry
  • NI, Northern Ireland
  • OHT, ocular hypertension
  • OHTS, Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study
  • POAG, primary open angle glaucoma
  • ROI, Republic of Ireland
  • glaucoma
  • ophthalmic treatment
  • costs

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