Researchers from the National Eye Institute in the United States say that Roche Holding's Avastin works as effectively as the more expensive Lucentis though the risk of side effects is higher among those who use Avastin.
Lucentis has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) but is very expensive at $2,000 per dose. The recent study, involving more than 1,200 patients, has now found that Roche's other drug, Avastin, is as effective in treating AMD even though it is not approved by the FDA.
The cheaper cost of Avastin, with each dose costing just $50, could see a big fall in revenue for Roche and its parent company, Novartis AG. Avastin is already used by doctors as a cheaper alternative. Some of the doctors say that the new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, would mean that more patients will opt for Avastin even though the only recommended drug for AMD is Lucentis.
"Before I would say there are two drugs available, but one is FDA-approved for this use. Now I will say there are two drugs that are available and say the effectiveness is comparable and the cost is certainly different, but there is still some question about safety. I cannot tell you the treatment choice will be different, but my guess is that the percentage of patients who opt for Avastin will be greater", Vanderbilt Eye Institute's Dr Paul Sternberg said.