Retinitis pigmentosa is an eye disease that people are born with that slowly leads to vision loss. The Argus II retinal implant is the only treatment approved by Health Canada for retinitis pigmentosa. A device is implanted in a patient’s eye and it works with a special set of glasses to restore some vision to people with this disease.
In 2016, Health Quality Ontario published a health technology assessment of the Argus II system. Based on that assessment, the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee recommended against publicly funding the Argus II system for individuals with retinitis pigmentosa. OHTAC requested a re-evaluation after 1 year.
We have now updated our assessment based on evidence published since 2016. We assessed the clinical benefits and harms of the Argus II system, value for money, and the budget impact of publicly funding it. We also interviewed people who have used it to learn more about their experiences.
Based on new evidence, the Argus II retinal prosthesis system improved visual function and quality of life in patients with advanced retinitis pigmentosa. The Argus II system is expensive, but the cost to publicly fund it would be low because of the small number (4) of eligible patients. The Argus II system can only enable perception of light/dark and shapes/objects, but these advancements represent important gains for people with retinitis pigmentosa in terms of mobility and quality of life.
It would cost the province $0.71 million to $0.78 million per year to fund the Argus II system, assuming 4 implants per year.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is currently reviewing this recommendation.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has provided the following response: The Ministry has a standardized process in place to review Health Quality Ontario recommendations. This takes into consideration Ministry priorities, implementation options, the need for consultation with impacted stakeholders, and funding considerations.