Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among adults aged 20-74. Patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, a debilitating eye disease, which can lead to the more severe condition of diabetic macular edema (DME). The International Diabetes Federation estimates that DME affects 11% of all people living with diabetes worldwide. DME exacts a severe and growing socioeconomic burden on individuals, health systems, and governments, but recent progress in the field may help to alleviate this burden.

The development of VEGF-targeted drugs has produced a true paradigm shift in the treatment of DME. Anti-VEGF therapy blocks the expression of “vascular endothelial growth factor” (VEGF) – a key element in the development of DME. Four anti-VEGF agents have been shown to be effective, and two have already been approved in the United States and the European Union. These therapies can help affected patients prevent further vision impairment and, in some cases, even reverse vision loss.

Recognizing the clinically transformative nature of these remarkable therapies, the Angiogenesis Foundation convened a Canadian National Multi-stakeholder Expert Summit for Diabetic Macular Edema in Toronto, Ontario on January 16th – 17th. The summit brought together high-level regional representatives including retinal specialists, ophthalmologists, optometrists, diabetologists, diabetes organization leaders, advocates, researchers, and patients.

Experts participated in a series of discussions that reviewed the impact of new drugs in the treatment of DME, the challenges to optimized care, and the necessary steps forward to improve patient outcomes. Dialogue particularly highlighted the need for greater preventative and screening measures while continuing to advance treatment options and safety for those afflicted. Despite complex policy differences between the regions in Canada, thought leaders involved in the Summit were optimistic that changes could be made initially through national education and advocacy campaigns. An action plan, as well as other conclusions from the Summit, will be reported in a white paper published by the Foundation in the coming months.

The Canadian National Multi-stakeholder Summit is the second DME Expert Summit convened by the Angiogenesis Foundation, yet the first in North America. The previous assembly was held in Paris, France in June 2014, and brought together experts from 12 countries. Key findings and proposed solutions from the Paris summit are available in the white paper report.

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