Trends in Glaucoma Surgery before and after the Introduction of New Topical Glaucoma Pharmacotherapies

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Objective:Recent advances in pharmacotherapy that have improved the ability to effect sustained reductions in intraocular pressure may delay or obviate the need for surgery for open-angle glaucoma. This analysis explored this possibility by evaluating the frequency of surgeries for open-angle glaucoma in the US Medicare population before and after the 1996 introduction of latanoprost, a topical prostaglandin analogue with potent ocular antihypertensive efficacy and a better safety profile than older topical glaucoma medications.Methods:Data from the Medicare 5% Standard Analytical File were used to develop national estimates of the frequency of glaucoma surgeries in the US yearly from 1994 through 1999.Results:While the number of US Medicare patients with a diagnosis of glaucoma remained constant from 1994 through 1999, the number of inpatient and outpatient glaucoma surgeries declined with a particularly sharp drop between 1996 and 1997. In 1999 relative to 1994, the number of annual glaucoma surgeries among unique patients with a diagnosis of glaucoma was reduced by 72% for inpatient procedures and 42% for outpatient procedures.Conclusions:The number of glaucoma surgeries among US Medicare patients markedly decreased from 1994 to 1999, during which time the prevalence of glaucoma remained stable in this population. The decrease in surgeries coincided with the introduction of improved topical pharmacotherapies for the management of glaucoma. Although the ability to infer a causal relationship between introduction of new pharmacotherapy and the decrease in surgeries is limited, the consistency of these data with those of several other studies renders the findings compelling.

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