THURSDAY, Feb. 19, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Glaucoma patients are more likely to take medications to treat their eye disease if they're prescribed generic drugs, a new study finds.
More than half of Americans with glaucoma do not take their medications as prescribed, which is one of the biggest obstacles in efforts to prevent glaucoma-related blindness, according to the researchers.
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease in the United States. It's treated with drugs called prostaglandin analogue (PGA) eye drops. These drugs are very effective, but brand name PGAs tend to be significantly more costly than other types of glaucoma drugs.
A generic version of the PGA latanoprost was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011 and at the time was $1,300 cheaper per year than brand name PGAs.
In this study, researchers analyzed data from more than 8,400 glaucoma patients. All of them were taking brand name latanoprost products such as Bimatoprost and Travaprost before the generic version was approved, but some switched to the generic drug after it became available.
Medication adherence among patients who switched to the generic version increased from 47 percent to 61 percent in patients who previously took Bimatoprost, and from 43 percent to 54 percent in patients who previously used Travaprost.
The study was published online recently in the journal Ophthalmology.
"Some of my patients require three or four different classes of medications. Individuals' out-of-pocket costs for glaucoma medications can exceed $100 per month, and the high drug cost may deter patients on a tight budget from consistently buying and taking their medications as prescribed," lead author Dr. Joshua Stein, an associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Michigan Eye Center, said in a journal news release.
"It's reassuring to find that switching patients to more affordable, generic drugs could be an effective solution for a subgroup of patients who have difficulty with adherence," he added.
The findings might also apply to medications used to treat other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, Stein said.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness worldwide. It affects more than 64 million people globally and more than 2.7 million Americans aged 40 and older, according to the researchers.
The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about glaucoma.
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