Treating age related macular degeneration

this image shows a yellow square with an eye logo inside for macular societyAge related macular degeneration causes the loss of central vision in older adults and can cause substantial difficulties with everyday tasks.
The wet form of this condition ( the more serious ) has in the past been treated with an expensive injections into the eye of the drug Lucentis.
In many cases patients pay privately if they don’t meet the criteria of having sight loss in both eyes.
cheaper drug Avastin.
In recent years the NHS has in four areas of south England agreed that the drug could be used in treating age related macular degeneration.
Lucentis  has been approved for use by the NHS drugs watchdog NICE but is not officially for eye conditions.
According to the NHS about 70% of people with wet AMD will experience severe loss of sight within two years of being diagnosed.
Lucentis, which costs about £740 per injection, is the treatment officially recommended to the NHS in England by NICE, however Avastin costs £60 per injection and has been given a European licence for treating the condition.

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.


Award-winning blogger and former care columnist for Devon Life magazine. I am passionate about helping elderly people and people with dementia live purposeful and independent lives.
Designer of the Dementia Assistance Card and Points Of Light award recipient, Caron hopes to help carers when resources are limited and demand is ever-increasing. I am here to support you.

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