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Cheap eye drug could save NHS millions

8th May 2012

The use of a less expensive drug to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) could allow the health service to save £84.5 million annually, according to new research.

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The IVAN trial, which was funded by the NHS, showed that the two drugs Avastin and Lucentis both had "similar effects" when used to treat wet AMD.

However, Avastin costs £60 compared to £700 per injection for Lucentis and the manufacturer of both drugs, Novartis, has started legal action against four NHS trusts for using the less expensive medication.

Novartis said Avastin had not been approved to treat wet AMD and the health service were putting patients' safety in danger. 

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has approved Lucentis as the recommended treatment for wet AMD in England and Wales.

The IVAN trial looked at 610 patients in 23 hospitals. The results of the trial were presented at a conference and will be published in the Ophthalmology journal.

Prof Usha Chakravarthy, of Queen's University in Belfast, headed the trial and told the BBC that both Avastin and Lucentis stopped eyesight getting worse when assessed by asking patients to read letters from an eye chart.

"Regardless of which drug they received, the average person improved by approximately one line," she said.

"And when it comes to comparing the two drugs, the difference was extremely small - less than two letters on the eye chart."


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