Lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation could save EU €6.2 billion in healthcare costs

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Age-related macular degeneration Macular degeneration

Supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin is a cheap and effective way to cut healthcare spending costs associated with treating age-related macular degeneration, finds a new report from Frost & Sullivan.

The study, which is due for full publication on November 2nd, will report that daily supplementation of 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin could save €6.20 bn ($7.33 bn) worth of medical costs in the EU.

“If adults aged 50 or older with no age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or with mild/intermediate AMD were to increase their daily lutein and zeaxanthin intake, the prevalence and progression of AMD would reduce, based on the overarching body of scientific evidence,”​ said Professor. Jean-François Korobelnik, head of the ophthalmology Ddpartment, University Hospital of Bordeaux.

“Further, as approved therapies are only available for the severe form of the disease, significant cost savings would result from the reduction of the incidence of advanced [severe] AMD."

As well as benefits to ocular function lutein and zeaxanthin have been implicated in improving brain function as lutein accumulates in the brain as well as the eye.

Lutein and zeaxanthin activity 

Companies currently active in this sector include US-based OmniActive Health Technologies with its Lutemax 2020 composition of lutein, RR-Zeaxanthin and RS-(meso)-zeaxanthin. Kemin Industries, also in the US debuted its FloraGlo marigold-source lutein back in 1996.

In Europe, BASF and DSM continue to dominate the landscape. Indeed a transatlantic deal was struck in 2015 between DSM and Kemin with new forms of lutein and zeaxanthin for use in tablets and soft gels.

The forms were a zeaxanthin powder (Optisharp) for tablets as well as gummies, chewables and sticks and a 5:1 lutein-zeaxanthin blend (FloraGlo) aimed at the soft gel market.

Latest figures suggest that 17.1 million people in the EU are living with AMD, of which 2.5 million cases are the more costly severe/late stage AMD.

The condition still represents a major cause of vision loss among older Europeans as Frost & Sullivan also estimate the economic burden of addressing AMD cases among this population and managing severe/late stage incidents in the EU at € 89.46 bn per year.

Supplementation “increasingly difficult to ignore”

“Following an analysis of the available science, consumption of 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin a day by EU adults aged 50 and older with mild AMD would cut their risk of experiencing a transition to the more severe and costly late stage AMD by 7.0%,”​ said Christopher Shanahan, global director at Frost & Sullivan.

“In turn, this would result in net cost savings of €4.97 billion ($5.87 billion) a year and highly positive benefit/cost ratios for each of the EU member states.”

According to Shanahan, supplementation’s role in determining how healthcare in the EU is funded, resourced, and delivered is “increasingly difficult to ignore”.

Earlier this year, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) made the decision to scrap lutein and antioxidant supplements along with omega-3 fatty acids, under NHS England plans to abandon 'ineffective' and 'low value' treatments.

The NHS, which allocates €1.7 million (£1.5 million) a year on lutein and antioxidant supplements, made the decision despite research that suggested the decision may have been made in haste.

In 2016, Frost & Sullivan reported that €13 billion a year in healthcare cost savings could be generated through daily consumption of 1,000 mg of omega-3 EPA/DHA food supplements.

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