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'Cheap eye drug' - but will it cost us?

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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The NHS is looking into if it should break with convention and recommend the use of an unlicensed treatment for patients at risk of blindness.
Lucentis is the preferred option for wet age-related macular degeneration, but at £10,000 per patient on average it is a costly therapy. However, widespread support for the use of Avastin is now evident. This is a cheaper drug used for bowel cancer, which Lucentis is derived from.
The official NHS advisory body normally only considers cases where the drug is licensed for the condition, this is not the case here. However, the Department of Health has asked NICE to consider altering its normal procedures because of the unique situation.
Doctors across the world have used Avastin to treat wet AMD on an unlicensed basis. This was also the case for NHS patients, until NICE backed the use of Lucentis two years ago. At this stage, NICE is only considering whether they should fully investigate the possibility of recommending the licensed use of Avastin, but the decision has received the cautious backing of doctors and campaigners.
Cathy Yelf, of the Macular Disease Society, said: "This is an exceptional case and could lift some of the pressure on the NHS. But we need to get results from the trials currently going on into whether Avastin is truly safe and effective before a decision is taken."
Therefore if the decision to use Avastin is made, this could benefit a number of people suffering from wet AMD, along with the NHS. It will help keep costs down and help other areas of the NHS benefit from the monies saved.
Unfortunately, NICE do not plan on making a decision until next year; therefore we will have to wait and see if the right decision is made.
By clinical negligence solicitor and Stephensons' Partner, Louise Griffiths