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NICE say no to diabetes eye drug

30th November 2011

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has ruled that a drug that could save the sight of people with diabetes is too expensive to be made available on the NHS.

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The government’s drugs advisory body has decided that ranibizumab, which is sold under the brand name Lucentis, is too expensive to use in people with diabetic macular oedema – a condition which affects up to 50,000 people in the UK.

Macular oedema occurs when fluid leaks from the small blood vessels in the eye and collects in the central part of the retina at the back of the eye, potentially leading to severe visual impairment.

Laser treatment is available but it only stops further deterioration while an injection of Lucentis in the eye – which costs £742.17 per injection - can improve vision.

NICE, however, already recommends Lucentis to the NHS for wet age-related macular degeneration.

Diabetes UK, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Macular Disease Society and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) are urging government to rapidly agree a Patient Access Scheme with the manufacturer of Lucentis, Novartis, in order to bring down the cost of the drug to the NHS for treating diabetic macular oedema.

Steve Winyard from the RNIB said: “We now hope that a patient access scheme can be agreed swiftly, so that patients with diabetic macular oedema are not left to needlessly lose their sight.”

Novartis says it will continue to work with NICE and the Department of Health to “ensure appropriate patients are able to receive this very important treatment.”

 

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