London: A cheap drug used to treat bowel
cancer 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` is
effective in treating wet age-related macular degeneration
(AMD) -- an eye disorder that leads to blindness.
The research also found that the drug is "superior to
standard care" and cheaper than the current medication, the
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading
cause of sight loss in patients over the age of 50 in Europe
and North America.
`Dry` AMD is the most common form of the condition, which
develops very slowly, causing gradual loss of central vision,
while `wet` AMD that occurs in about one in 10 patients can
develop quickly and lead to sight loss.
For their study, the specialists at three eye centres
looked at 131 patients with wet AMD, aged around 81 years.
They were given tiny injections of Avastin into the eye
at six week intervals, and the results were compared with two
other treatments available at the time or `sham` care.
The researchers found that fewer people on Avastin lost
letters on eye test charts, and their sharpness of vision
"Treatment is associated with a greater chance of
moderate vision recovery and a reduced risk of moderate vision
loss" the researchers said.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, did
not compare Avastin with Lucentis, the licensed drug which
costs about 10,000 pounds per patient on average.
Several large trials comparing the two drugs are
Ophthalmologists around the world have been injecting
tiny quantities of Avastin into the eyes of patients on an
experimental, or "off-label" basis.
They report success at low cost because one course can be
split and used for dozens of patients.
The drug firm, Roche, which markets Avastin, has not
applied for the drug to be used for wet AMD.
Barbara McLaughlan, RNIB campaigns manager for eye health
and social care, said patients should continue to be treated
with Lucentis until "robust evidence" was available on the
safety and effectiveness of Avastin.