Ophthalmologist addresses European Parliament

December 1, 2008

Professor Gerd U. Auffarth petitions the European Parliament for the introduction of co-pay schemes for cataract patients in the EU

Key Points

Modern medical device technology is necessary to maintain the health and the quality of life of our patients. It is also a fundamental pillar of our healthcare system and a major factor in Europe's science-based economy.

The value of medical devices

The medical device industry is extremely innovative with approximately €3.7 billion invested in research and development to release almost 500,000 new products each year. The current lifespan of a medical device averages 18 months before it is substituted by a new version or a completely new device. This continuous progress comes at a reasonable price; only 7% of all healthcare budgets are allotted to medical supplies. Therefore, medical device technology is not only a major contributor to the maintenance and restoration of individual health and quality of life but it is also one of the most cost-effective sectors in modern healthcare.

An international event, MedTech Forum 2008, which took place in Brussels, Belgium, from 13-16 October, gave scientists, physicians, spokespersons of the medical device industry and patients a rare opportunity to address the European Parliament. The aim was to demonstrate and emphasize the benefits of modern medical equipment in lively discussions with the parliamentarians during an academic session focusing on "Medical Device Technology: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow".

Premium IOLs inaccessible to most patients

The first, and so far the only, ophthalmologist ever to address the European Parliament about cataract surgery co-payment in Europe, was Professor Gerd U. Auffarth, Deputy Chairman of the University Eye Hospital Heidelberg, Germany. In his lecture to 400 participants, Professor Auffarth stressed the sheer breathtaking potential of modern cataract surgery and the limitations that most patients are facing; in most EU countries laws are restricting their access to modern multifocal intraocular lenses (IOLs) and other premium lenses, by not allowing co-payment of these innovative IOLs.

Urgent action called for

Professor Auffarth made it unmistakably clear that the benefits of innovative medical products must be available to everybody, whether it is high-quality dentures and dental implants or the comfort and visual quality that modern eye surgery can provide to cataract patients. Part of this visual comfort depends, for example, on a modern multifocal IOL.

Professor Auffarth stressed the importance of a European Union-wide, comprehensive and consistent solution on patient shared billing and reimbursement of innovative IOLs, which should be implemented as soon as possible. The patient in the early 21st century is well-informed, responsible and deserves the opportunity to decide for himself which medical device may be the best for his expectations, his lifestyle, and his concept of well-being. Patients are entitled to reap the rewards of innovation in modern ophthalmology and ophthalmic surgery. This freedom to choose is even more important when it comes to the patient's most valuable sensory organ - his eyes.