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Challenge over use of cheap eye drug

24th April 2012

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Novartis has challenged the use of a less costly drug than its product Lucentis for the treatment of an eye disorder.

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The health service said last year that four parts of southern England could prescribe a cheaper drug called Avastin - also made by Novartis - for wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD).

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends the use of Lucentis for the condition.

Wet AMD, according to NHS figures, causes "severe" loss of sight for 70% of patients within two years of diagnosis.

The health service in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton said in 2011 that they would also pay to use Avastin.

Avastin costs £60 per injection, compared to £740 per injection for Lucentis. However Avastin has not been licensed for use in the eye.

Novartis said: "It is unacceptable to put the safety of patients at risk through the widespread use of an unlicensed treatment when a licensed medicine is available. It undermines the regulatory process that was introduced to safeguard patients." 

Spokesperson Cathy Yelf from the Macular Disease Society 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." 

 

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