Costs associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) could be avoided through more widespread lutein & zeaxanthin supplementation

The objective of the  Economic Benefits of Using Lutein and Zeaxanthin Food Supplements in the European Union study (link below) is to determine whether health cost savings could be realised, in the form of avoided healthcare-related expenditures, from the use of lutein and zeaxanthin supplement. The report examines the body of clinical research that tests the hypothesis that the use of lutein and zeaxanthin supplements can potentially reduce age-related macular degeneration (AMD) attributed hospital utilisation costs in the European Union (EU) among those at a high risk of experiencing worsening severity of AMD.

Using existing published literature and official data, researchers at Frost & Sullivan explored the financial benefits of the consumption of lutein and zeaxanthin food supplements among people aged 50 and above with early signs of mild AMD. This demographic group, representing 17 million people is considered to be at high risk of developing the more severe case of late-stage AMD.

The Burden of AMD

AMD is a progressive degenerative eye disease and a major cause of vision loss among older Europeans. AMD, which inhibits the ability to see objects directly ahead, can cause irreversible and progressive decline in an individual’s independence and ability to perform daily activities, which often leads to significant emotional distress and significantly impacts quality of life. Age is a major risk factor for the development of AMD, as the disease mostly inflicts people aged above 50 years. Other risk factors include smoking, family history and genetics, and dietary and other lifestyle choices. AMD is characterized by the degeneration of the central part of the retina known as the macula which is the area where the finest visual perception occurs. Visual acuity (VA) is typically assessed to verify how the disease affects visual function. There are three stages of AMD – early, intermediate and late or advanced stage and people move from one stage to the other as the disease progresses. Late stage AMD can be in either the “dry” form (Geographic Atrophy) or the “wet” form which is accompanied by choroidal neovascularisation.

Deducing the Health and Economic Benefits of Lutein & Zeaxanthin

In the Frost & Sullivan analysis, various health state scenarios were analysed in order to determine the potential savings from avoided medical spending, or loss due to required medical spending, that is possible if one scenario occurred versus another. A review of the scientific literature related to lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation was undertaken and its possible effect on minimizing the number of cases of severe/late stage AMD as measured by the target population’s average VA is provided. In order to compare differences in possible health states, changes in VA was used as a proxy to calculate the relative risk of suffering from severe AMD given the use and nonuse of a daily lutein and zeaxanthin regimen. Specifically, the benefits considered in this model are avoided expenditures related to severe/late stage AMD cases resulting from the use of a lutein and zeaxanthin food supplement. The result of these potential healthcare savings provides an economic indication of the monetary benefits the user of lutein and zeaxanthin can yield by reducing medical costs and enhancing quality of life.
Based on a review of the scientific literature, researchers studying the link between the use of lutein and zeaxanthin and a change in visual acuity among people with AMD found that those with mild/intermediate stage AMD using lutein and zeaxanthin supplements versus users of a placebo had a baseline LogMAR levels of VA by 0.04 basis points less than the placebo group (LogMAR = 0.5). The average baseline LogMAR level in the EU for the target population is estimated to be 0.574, or a 7.0% reduction of progression to advanced AMD. These findings overall imply that use of lutein and zeaxanthin could yield less mild to severe/late stage AMD case transitions compared to the placebo group.

Overall, it is forecast that in the EU, 2.5 million people will suffer from late or advanced AMD. For each case transition, it is expected to cost €34,805 per person in treatment and long-term care costs. However, this analysis indicates that more widespread daily consumption of 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin among individuals 50 and older with signs of early stage AMD, 175,889 case transitions could be avoided which in turn would generate total cost savings of €6.20 billion per year.

Study Implications

Lutein and zeaxanthin food supplements may provide important potential healthcare cost savings for all EU adults aged above 50 years with AMD. As indicated in this new case study, a considerable amount of scientific research has already been conducted involving lutein and zeaxanthin and there is an indication that this food supplement produces a likely positive impact on the severity of AMD.

Specifically, this case study shows that there is economic benefit that can be expected from the use of a lutein and zeaxanthin food supplement as a means to reduce the number of AMD cases that transition from the more manageable and less debilitating dry AMD to more severe, and costly, wet AMD among those individuals in the EU with mild/intermediate AMD.  Moreover, visual acuity (VA) is a good way to measure the severity of AMD and VA’s preservation from the use of a lutein and zeaxanthin food supplement regimen is a key indicator of its efficacy.

More scientific research is being conducted to continue to investigate the potential benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin’s use for eye health in general and reducing the risk of AMD. However, there is a considerable amount of evidence to provide guidance on the magnitude of healthcare-attributed health and economic benefits that could be realized from the use of lutein and zeaxanthin.

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