American eye specialist donates drugs to Eye Clinic

An American eye specialist and his daughter have donated close to $800,000 tala worth of drugs to the local Eye Clinic in Apia. 

Dr. Douglas Mehr and his daughter Madison from Utah, U.S. donated more than 150 doses of Eylea – which is a medication that is administered through an injection into the eye to treat certain retinal diseases – to the Eye Clinic.

Each dose of the medication cost $US2,000 ($5,264 tala) each or $792,450 tala for a full batch of 150 doses. 

Dr. Mehr, who is a ophthalmologist, said he saw the need for the Eylea medication, which are either very expensive or unavailable in Samoa. 

Receiving the donation on behalf of the Eye Clinic, Dr. Lucilla Ah Ching-Sefo, said patients would have to travel overseas in order to undergo an operation. Their travel abroad is often due to the unavailability of Eylea in the country.

The Eylea injection is used for the management of advanced eye diseases such as complications of diabetic eye disease (or diabetic retinopathy), age-related macular degeneration, retinal vein occlusions plus other eye conditions. 

"In Samoa, we have a growing number of people being diagnosed with diabetes and with that we also have a growing number of people suffering from complications of diabetes," said Dr Ah Ching-Sefo, who is also an eye specialist. 

"Many people do not know this, but diabetes has now become one of the leading causes of blindness in Samoa." 

She explained that in the first quarter of this year, the eye care nursing team performed over 600 eye examinations of diabetic patients and more than 50 per cent of them never had an eye exam for diabetes.

And out of these patients, 30 are currently undergoing laser treatment at the Motootua National Hospital to prevent them from going blind.

Dr. Ah Ching-Sefo said many of these patients would greatly benefit from a dose of the Eylea medication.

"These injections are very expensive and may cost up to $US2,000 ($5,264 tala) per injection, yet it has been donated to our hospital for our patients at no extra cost. Many patients with more advanced complications of diabetes in the eyes need surgery that is not offered in Samoa for various reasons."

"These surgeries can cost up to $NZ20,000 ($T35,153) so having these injections made available locally will reduce the need for patients to travel overseas for treatment," she added. 

Despite having the medication now readily available, Dr. Ah Ching-Sefo says prevention is better than cure.

"So please, for all people suffering from diabetes, they need to have their eyes examined. This can be done at Lalomanu District Hospital, Lufilufi Health Center, Faleolo Health Center, Leulumoega District Hospital, Safotu Health Center, Sataua Health Center, Foalalo Health Center, Tuasivi MTII Hospital and of course TTM Hospital."

Dr. Ah Ching-Sefo said the local clinic is blessed to be the recipient of such a donation. Also present yesterday was patient, Sulu Tinai, who said the gesture would assist the people of Samoa. 

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