(2) if she will take steps to provide funding for the provision of pegaptanib sodium solution as a treatment for macular degeneration prior to sight loss; and if she will make a statement;
(3) what estimate she has made of the number of people who lost their sight in England as a result of macular degeneration in each of the last 10 years.
Information on the number of people with macular degeneration is not collected centrally. A study sponsored by the Macular Disease Society in 2001 estimated that there were 182,000 people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) with a best eye visual acuity below that judged appropriate for certification as blind or partially sighted. There are an estimated 26,000 new cases of wet age-related macular degeneration each year.
The Department does not routinely analyse the causes of blindness. However, an analysis by the Office for National Statistics of those registered blind or partially sighted showed that in 1990-91 there were 6,765 people certified blind and 7,204 certified partially sighted with AMD. Further analysis carried out by Moorfields Eye Hospital in 2004 showed that of those registered blind or partially sighted in 1999-2000 there were 7,881 certified blind and 10,705 certified partially sighted with AMD.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) started its review of Macugen and Lucentis as a treatment for the wet form of AMD on 1 August 2006 and the final guidance is expected in October 2007. NICE will consider the clinical and cost effectiveness of Macugen and Lucentis for the classic and non classic forms of wet AMD and will include advice on where Macugen and Lucentis may be effective.
The main agency through which the Government support medical and clinical research is the Medical Research Council (MRC). The MRC is an independent body funded by the Department of Trade and Industry via the Office of Science and Innovation.
In 2003-04, the latest year for which figures are available, the MRC spent £5.6 million on vision research. This research includes a project on genetic susceptibility to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The project aims to identify the genetic factors involved in AMD. The MRC also supports collaborative research efforts into the cell biology of ocular diseases, and degenerative diseases of the retina; and in 2004 awarded a total of £1.3 million for research into retinal stem cell therapy.
The Department funds research to support policy and to provide the evidence needed to underpin quality improvement and service development in the national health service and, through its health technology assessment programme, is currently funding a study on wet AMD and two studies concerned with both wet and dry AMD. Details of these projects can be found on the programme's website at www.hta.nhsweb.nhs.uk.
Over 75 per cent. of the Department's total expenditure on health research is devolved to and managed by NHS organisations. Details of individual projects including a number concerned with AMD can be found on the national research register at www.dh.gov.uk/research.