Inexpensive drug to prevent sight loss shown to be safe, effective

June 11th, 2010 - 1:10 pm ICT by ANI  

London, June 11 (ANI): In a new study, an inexpensive, but unlicensed drug to help prevent severe sight loss in older people has been shown to be safe and effective.

The drug Bevacizumab (Avastin), although a licensed treatment for bowel cancer, is still unlicensed for treating sight loss. It is a considerably cheaper alternative to the approved drug ranibizumab (Lucentis) to prevent wet age related macular degeneration (AMD).

Visual loss is a result of progressive loss of light sensitive cells at the back of the eye due to damage from abnormal, leaking blood vessels. Although it doesn’t cause complete blindness, it renders it virtually impossible to read, drive, or do tasks requiring fine, sharp, central vision.

In an experiment, 131 patients aged at least 50 years with wet AMD were treated with the drug and visual acuity was monitored over one year. The results showed that 32 per cent of patients in the bevacizumab group gained 15 or more letters from baseline visual acuity compared with 3 per cent in the standard care group.

This trial provides level-one evidence for the use of bevacizumab injections for the treatment of wet AMD, and is associated with a low rate of serious adverse events, according to the researchers. They warn, however, that the trial does not tell us whether the drug is as effective as ranibizumab.

The trial findings appear in the British Medical Journal. (ANI)

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