Newswise — Rockville, Md. — Leading vision scientists from the U.S. and around the world will gather in Washington, DC on Feb. 9 to discuss federal research funding with members of Congress.  The researchers will share examples of how investing taxpayer dollars into basic science has resulted in cost savings for patients and for the Medicare program overall. 

“We are here today to express to our elected officials how their support for federal research funding makes a difference in the health care system overall,” said Juliet Moncaster, PhD, chair of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s (ARVO) Advocacy and Outreach Committee.  “At a time when the nation is focused on reducing the costs of health care, it is important to understand that medical research not only leads to cures for diseases but also leads to cost saving in treatments and technologies for some of the most serious and costly health conditions.”

A newly published study highlights the strong return-on-investment for government spending on basic research.  The study examines how a single technology called optical coherence tomography (OCT), which was invented with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF), has collectively saved patients and Medicare $11.2 billion over just eight years.

OCT allows eye care providers to see the back of a patient’s eyes using a quick, non-invasive and inexpensive exam.  Furthermore, OCT is the primary tool used to personalize the care of patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a blinding disease affecting over two million Americans each year. OCT lowers health care costs by providing real-time information on how a patient is responding to treatment which allows doctors to optimize care.

“Our paper is unique because it quantifies the impact research can have, in this case via reduced healthcare spending,” says corresponding author David Huang, MD, PhD, FARVO, Professor of Ophthalmology at the Casey Eye Institute. “In this case, we have shown that return on research investment can be very high.”

Vision scientists are visiting legislators on Feb. 9 as part of ARVO’s annual Advocacy Day. The annual event offers leading scientific researchers and students a chance to share their science with representatives. This year, ophthalmology professors, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and medical residents from 13 states visit Washington, D.C. to communicate the need for consistent, sustainable and robust funding for the NIH. In addition, vision researchers from four non-U.S. countries will join their U.S. peers to communicate how NIH policy influences their opportunities for collaboration.

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world. Members include nearly 12,000 eye and vision researchers from over 75 countries. ARVO advances research worldwide into understanding the visual system and preventing, treating and curing its disorders.