WRAL Story: 'Price of vision' much higher for N.C. Medicare patients

Dr. Robert Califf, vice chancellor of clinical and translational medicine, discusses an analysis of 20212 Medicare Part B spending data for eye care and the need for effective, affordable clinical research

April 28, 2014 WRAL

A WRAL analysis of 2012 Medicare Part B spending data released by the federal government earlier this month shows that among the largest total expenditures is an injectable drug called Lucentis, which costs about $2,000 a dose. The drug is used for treatment of serious eye ailments such as macular degeneration, which can cause blindness in the elderly. Yet a $50 "off-label" alternative is rarely prescribed.

Dr. Robert Califf, vice chancellor of clinical and translational research, and Edward Buckley, a professor of ophthalmology at Duke, discuss the possible reasons for the disparity, including possible reluctance to prescribe a drug not approved by the FDA for macular degeneration, the difficulties of obtaining the cheaper drug, and lack of market pressure to put the cheaper drug through clinical trials to obtain FDA approval.

Califf hopes that the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), created as part of the Affordable Care Act, can help with the latter problem by creating a vast network of interconnected health data to make conducting clinical trials easier and less expensive.

Read the original article.