The first drug proven to significantly improve the vision of elderly patients was approved by the FDA on Friday.
The drug, Lucentis, is to treat age-related macular degeneration in its wet form, where blood vessels behind the retina leak, worsening vision and often leading to blindness. 90 percent of the 1.4 million Americans, who have lost their vision due to this degeneration, are estimated to have the wet form of the disease.
Lucentis is manufactured by Genentech, Inc., a Biotechnology Company based in South San Francisco, California. None of the other Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatments has been shown to significantly reverse vision deterioration, like Lucentis does. Lucentis cost $1,950 per injection, and should be used monthly or bimonthly.
Lucentis and Avastin, another Genentech cancer drug, block the same protein believed to instigate blood vessel growth. Dr. Hal Barron, Genentech chief medical officer said, "We believe Lucentis is a much better choice. I really believe when treating patients, you have to look at the wealth of data supporting its use and the quality of that data."
The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, has received an outside proposal to conduct a comparative study on Avastin and Lucentis in treating AMD.
The anticipated cost of Lucentis may limit its usage, while Avastin is far cheaper.
Neither drug is a complete cure for age-related macular degeneration.
The most commonly reported side- effects of Lucentis include conjunctival hemorrhage, eye pain, floaters, increased eye pressure and inflammation.