London: A cheap drug used to treat bowelcancer can also help stave off sight loss in elderly people,British researchers have claimed. A new study carried out in three eye centres in London,Bristol and Cheltenham showed that the drug `Avastin` iseffective in treating wet age-related macular degeneration(AMD) -- an eye disorder that leads to blindness.
"Treatment is associated with a greater chance ofmoderate vision recovery and a reduced risk of moderate visionloss" the researchers said. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, didnot compare Avastin with Lucentis, the licensed drug whichcosts about 10,000 pounds per patient on average. Several large trials comparing the two drugs arecurrently underway. Ophthalmologists around the world have been injectingtiny quantities of Avastin into the eyes of patients on anexperimental, or "off-label" basis. They report success at low cost because one course can besplit and used for dozens of patients. The drug firm, Roche, which markets Avastin, has notapplied for the drug to be used for wet AMD. Barbara McLaughlan, RNIB campaigns manager for eye healthand social care, said patients should continue to be treatedwith Lucentis until "robust evidence" was available on thesafety and effectiveness of Avastin. PTI
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