Lucentis Vs. Avastin
A Macular Degeneration Treatment Controversy
When Lucentis (ranibizumab) received FDA approval in late June 2006, the new macular degeneration drug was celebrated as a major medical breakthrough for treatment of more severe or “wet” forms of macular degeneration (AMD.)
But some eye doctors argue that a drug closely related to Lucentis, known as Avastin (bevacizumab), also has been shown to be a highly effective and far cheaper alternative for lower-income individuals with advanced AMD. The problem is that Avastin is FDA-approved only for treatment of colon and other cancers, but not for macular degeneration. As an alternative, many eye doctors have been using Avastin as an off-label treatment.
An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that Lucentis costs more than $2,000 per treatment, while Avastin costs less than $150 per treatment. This price discrepancy could be highly significant for people who have limited or no health insurance coverage. While both drugs have been shown to successful, neither drug has been shown to be superior for treating wet AMD.
The efforts of a local doctor not only cleared the way for this breakthrough treatment to be placed on Medicare’s covered-medications list, but also improved the vision of two women previously considered legally blind.
Dr. Alexander Eaton, of Retina Health Center in Fort Myers, began petitioning the American Society of Retina Specialists nearly two years ago to support the use of the medication Avastin for patients with various eye conditions. Once supported by the society, a retina specialist group with members throughout the world, state Medicare administrator First Coast Service Options also approved the drug after a year of collaboration between doctors in Tampa Bay and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami.