The NHS in Southampton, Hampshire, The Isle of Wight and Portsmouth decided last year that it would also pay for the use of Avastin, where it was prescribed by an ophthamologist.Avastin has to be used off licence as it has not been formally approved for use in eyes. The PCTs say the cheaper alternative is safe and useful.
Avastin has been internationally recognised as an effective treatment for AMD and over 50% of AMD patients in the United States are treated with Avastin.”
Behind the legal case is a dilemma for the health service. Using a cheaper drug that seems to work well, even if it is not licensed. The Macular Society says there needs to be greater clarity.
It is worried that as off licence use of Avastin has increased in the NHS, patients are sometimes being asked to decide which drug to try.
Spokesperson Cathy Yelf said: “If Avastin is not as safe as Lucentis, no-one should be using it. If it is as good, then perhaps everyone should be using it. ”
There are some research studies under way to compare the two drugs, but NICE is unable to review Avastin for eye disease as it has not been officially approved for that.