US task force under fire for recommending against glaucoma screening

November 26, 2007

A conference, which was set up in response to the recent report by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) dismissing the importance of glaucoma screening, has recommended a re-evaluation of the findings.

A conference, which was set up in response to the recent report by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) dismissing the importance of glaucoma screening, has recommended a re-evaluation of the findings.

The task force assigned to the USPSTF investigation conducted a review of the clinical trials literature but failed to find conclusive proof supporting the screening of glaucoma, thereby determining that there is insufficient scientific evidence to recommend for or against glaucoma screening in Americans. However, since the report was published, the USPSTF has so far declined to respond to public comment presenting new information.

Participants at the conference, which ranged from glaucoma patients and scientific experts to the former Commissioner of the FDA and the former Surgeon General of the US Navy, discussed the urgent need for a review of the evidence, highlighting the potential future harm to 2 million glaucoma patients at risk of blindness if the report is incorporated into national policy.

Scientists at the conference presented new data which established a link between early glaucomatous optic nerve loss and loss of visual function. Data files maintained by Medicare also demonstrated that moderate vision loss can incur an additional cost on the federal budget.

Representatives from organizations including Medicare and the Veterans Administration agreed that the USPSTF findings were inconsistent with independent scientific reviews undertaken by their own organizations. The group also stressed the need for a clearer and more open process on how to interpret and develop upon medical evidence.

The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, who co-hosted the conference along with the Glaucoma Foundation, is releasing a report outlining its policy recommendations before the end of this year.