KINGSTON, ON, June 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ - At the center of the debate of how to potentially save the healthcare system millions of dollars are two drugs used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in seniors. One, Lucentis, is FDA and Health Canada-approved and costs $1,700. The other, Avastin, is used off-label and costs one-tenth the price. Eye doctors currently use both drugs to treat AMD and some studies have shown that they are equally effective.
However, new research published in this month's issue of the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology, shows that Avastin has a significantly higher risk of serious intraocular inflammation - a potentially blinding adverse event.
The research conducted by Dr. Sanjay Sharma, a professor of ophthalmology and epidemiology at Queen's University, reviewed 1600 consecutive cases of patients who had received either Lucentis or Avastin.
The results of the study showed that patients who had received Avastin had a 12 times higher risk of serious intraocular inflammation. Patients who developed this adverse event frequently lost their sight.
"This is a of concern for patients receiving Avastin in the eye," stated Sharma - a noted AMD and health policy researcher. "It is particularly important because many of our seniors need numerous injections - so the risk is cumulative."
These findings are particularly important now, as many provincial governments are considering the use of Avastin instead of Lucentis to help curb their spiraling costs, often citing the price differences between the two drugs.
"If governments are going to consider switching to Avastin, we really need to understand the overall cost to society. This means not only looking at the differences in retail prices, but the costs of treating those who are adversely affected, as well as the human cost of those patients."
"At minimum we need to make patients fully aware of the risks so they can make informed decisions."
For the bigger picture watch Dr. Sharma's just-released animated whiteboard video at www.insidermedicine.com/lucentis-avastin