New treatment for dry eye disease added to PBS


Sixteen years ago, Lynette Mayne had cataract surgery, which involves removal of the eye’s clouded lens and replacement with an artificial one, on both of her eyes. Soon after, Lynette’s eyes became extremely irritated, and she developed double vision.

Little did she realise at the time, her cataract surgery, and an additional operation to address her stigmatism, coupled with her delayed diagnosis and age, would result in her developing severe corneal inflammation from dry eye disease (DED).

Today, Lynette is sharing her story to raise awareness of this debilitating condition, which is more common in people over the age of 50, and women are three times more likely to suffer from symptoms.

Lynette subsequently underwent further eye-related medical procedures, and trialled multiple treatments under the guidance of her specialist, in a bid to improve the dryness of her eyes.

“I’m often unable to see things. For instance, I have to carry a magnifying glass when my eyes get blurry, or I develop double vision,” says Lynette, the executive chair of The B Team Australasia.

“Even at the supermarket I have to carry a magnifying glass to read the food labels. “When people ask me to look at something for them at work, whether it is a document, or on screen, depending on the health of my eyes at the time, I find it really difficult.”

In a bid to manage the symptoms, an ophthalmologist inserted tiny plugs into her tear glands to increase the level of moisture on her eyes. Lynette’s tear glands were too large however, so the plugs would not stay in place.

Eventually, her ophthalmologist referred her to a dry eye disease (DED) specialist, who immediately diagnosed Lynette with severe corneal inflammation from DED.

Lynette is currently managing her condition with a routine administration of four different medications and eye-drops, and the use of hard contact lenses.

“I’m a self-proclaimed workaholic. I spend a lot of my time on a screen, and I love what I do,” says Lynette.

“For me, to stop and put artificial tears in my eyes all day long, is unrealistic.

“I’m so thankful that my optometrist has been determined to get me to the stage where I am at today – where my eye disease is well managed,” said Lynette.

Lynette maintains it is important for Australian adults living with severe corneal inflammation from DED to have timely access to a range of treatment options.

Women going through perimenopause and menopause are also more susceptible, while increasing screen use and mask associated dry eye disease (MADE) during the pandemic is
also exacerbating cases of DED, say specialists.

“Had my eye disease been detected earlier it may not have had such an impact on my life,” Lynette said.

Doctors say if the condition isn’t properly managed it can lead to a complication called keratitis.

This results in eye surface damage, inflammation and can lead to blurry vision.

“It can be really debilitating for patients,” says leading Sydney optometrist Dr Margaret Lam.

From early October, a non-steroid anti-inflammatory daily eye drop called Ikervis has been added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Makers say it’s Australia’s-first PBS listed disease modifying ciclosporin eye drop treatment for severe keratitis in adults with DED.

The drops usually cost about $900 a year, but with the subsidy each script will be $41.30 or $6.60 for concession card holders.