Health minister discloses he has AMD

Ben-Yizri is one of 190,000 Israelis suffering frmo degenerative eye disease.

yaakov ben-yizri 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
yaakov ben-yizri 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
During a special screening at the Knesset on Monday for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) - a major cause of blindness in the elderly - 80-year-old Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri said that he too is a sufferer of the disease. The testing was organized by the Israel AMD Association and carried out by eye doctors from the Hadassah University Medical Center. One out of six people over the age of 65 will develop AMD, which is more common among smokers (like Ben-Yizri) and has genetic influences as well. The minister called on everyone over the age of 50 to be screened for it by an ophthalmologist, as a decline in the field of vision can be halted if caught early. About 50 ministers, MKs and Knesset staffers underwent testing for AMD at the event. "As an AMD patient, I am more aware of the importance of screening," Ben-Yizri said. "Those who need treatment will get the best that the health system is able to give." Dr. Gideon Naor, chairman of the association, said there are some 190,000 AMD patients in the country. "Early diagnosis and new treatments can stabilize vision among 96 percent of patients and even restore lost vision in 40% of them," he said. "Many patients can't afford the costs of medications [all of which are not in the basket of health services]. I am glad that the health minister has committed himself to give the optimal treatment for AMD patients who need it." The only AMD medication approved so far by the US Food and Drug Administration is Lucentis, said Dr. Adi Averbuch, a Hadassah ophthalmologist. "It has created a revolution in the treatment of AMD and has given many patients hope." The drug is not currently included in the basket of services provided by the health funds.