Although there are indications that the prevalence of keratoconus may be rising, access to treatment is decreasing for many. It’s estimated that over 5 million Americans have lost their health insurance during the current coronavirus pandemic. Without insurance, keratoconus treatments can cost thousands of dollars — essentially forcing some people to choose between their vision and other significant, necessary expenses or their family’s savings. Although it’s considered a rare disease, keratoconus is often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed, and if left untreated can lead to blindness. Fortunately, there is an FDA-approved cross-linking treatment to halt or slow the progression of the condition and preserve one’s vision that is covered by most health insurance plans. And, for those who do not have insurance coverage, there are programs available that may make the procedure more affordable.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic began, Dr. Craig Berger, a cornea fellowship-trained ophthalmologist at Bay Area Eye in Tampa, Florida, with over 20 years of experience helping keratoconus patients, believed that no one should be powerless to preserve their vision because of their inability to pay for a procedure. That was when he began treating patients in need with iLink FDA-approved cross-linking for free through Glaukos’ Patient Assistance Program, using the drug formulations, Photrexa® Viscous (riboflavin 5’-phosphate in 20% dextran ophthalmic solution) and Photrexa® (riboflavin 5’-phosphate ophthalmic solution), donated by Glaukos.

A Personal Experience

Joe experienced Dr. Berger’s generosity firsthand. When Joe was a teenager, he began wearing disposable contact lenses to help improve his vision. Nearly two decades later, Joe was shocked to learn that keratoconus was the reason behind his deteriorating vision. Although Joe had never heard of keratoconus before, the more he learned about the condition, the more his diagnosis began to make sense in terms of his symptoms and vision troubles. A few months after being diagnosed, Joe and his wife heard about the iLink FDA-approved corneal cross-linking treatment and began extensively researching it. That’s when they learned about Dr. Craig Berger and the Bay Area Eye team.As a leading cross-linking surgeon in the state of Florida, Dr. Berger has performed over 350 treatments since iLink received FDA approval in 2016. During Joe’s first appointment, Dr. Berger recommended that he undergo the iLink FDA-approved cross-linking procedure. Unfortunately, at the time, unforeseen circumstances left Joe and his wife without insurance. Without insurance, Joe would have had to pay for the procedure out of pocket, which would likely cost thousands of dollars. That’s when Dr. Berger informed Joe that he may qualify for the Patient Assistance Program, where the procedure would be done pro bono and the drug formulations would be provided for free by Glaukos (manufacturer of the drug and device for the only FDA-approved cross-linking procedure). After he applied and was accepted by the program, Joe received iLink FDA-approved cross-linking in his left eye in February of 2019. Then, in September of 2019, he received the same cross-linking procedure in the right. Following his treatment, Joe was fitted with a scleral lens to help improve his vision.

More than a year later, Joe wears his contact lenses daily, allowing him to see better than he has in years. Joe says he is grateful and glad he underwent the procedure, adding that “good eyesight is important — something you often take for granted until yours isn’t good anymore.”

Learn More!

If you’re interested in learning more about the Glaukos Patient Assistance Program, connect with your eye care professional to discuss the program further. If you’re looking for a doctor in your area who is familiar with treating progressive keratoconus and offering iLink FDA-approved cross-linking, use our physician locator.

For more information on keratoconus and iLink FDA-approved cross-linking, follow Living with KC on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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