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Maryland Enacts Important Eye Safety Legislation

May 23, 2011 04:52PM ● By Anonymous

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed important patient safety legislation into law that would insure continuity of therapy for patients with eye and sight problems.

SB 701, sponsored by Senator Katherine Klausmeir and HB 888, sponsored by Delegate Wade Kach, requires insurance companies and health plans to provide coverage for an early refill of prescription eye drops at 21 days, instead of the usual 30 days most benefit programs allow.   Prescription insurance plans typically pay for a one month, or a three month, supply of medication.   But the number of drops in a bottle often falls short, before the one month period has expired.  Patients frequently run out of medication before a month is up because they spill or put more than one drop in the eye at a time. Running out of drops early means that a glaucoma patient is only treating his or her disease 20 days a month, leaving a critical ten days a month untreated, possibly leading to additional permanent visual loss.

"There are many eye diseases that require chronic therapy with eye drop medication.   Glaucoma is the most common of these, and is also one of the leading causes of blindness," said Michael X. Repka, MD, president of the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons.   "This catastrophic outcome can generally be avoided when patients are able to use their prescribed eye drops every single day."

"It is not at all unusual for a young and healthy patient to have trouble administering eye drops...getting every drop to hit the eye every time.  It is virtually impossible for the elderly, or those with tremors or arthritis to do this," added Mary Lou Collins, MD, past president of the MSEPS.  "If you drop a pill, you can always pick it up and try again.  We take that for granted.  But if you miss your eye, that eye drop is lost forever."

The MSEPS brought this issue to the attention of Senator Klausmeir and Delegate Kach, who agreed to sponsor the measure.  The bill was signed today, May 19, 2011, by Governor O'Malley, and takes effect on October 1, 2011.

The Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons is the State's ophthalmological society that serves to enlighten and influence public awareness pertaining to ophthalmology issues; acts as an advocate for patient's quality of care; articulates and advocates on behalf of patients and ophthalmologists and develops continuing education programs for physicians.