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Planning Retirement Online

Battle for Best Eye Treatment

It is only when we reach retirement age or older than most of us are even aware of the disease of wet age-related macular degeneration.

Yet this dreadful condition affects at least 26,000 people every year in the UK and without careful treatment can cause blindness.

In recent weeks there have been increasing reports of problems arising around the provision of Avastin, a cheap and effective drug to treat the disease.

Avastin is not licenced in the UK as an accepted treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration and therefore not on the lists of medications for this disease that can be officially prescribed by doctors.

This doesn’t mean no treatment is available. Lucentis, made by drug company Novartis, is already licenced to treat the disease in the UK and it is also very effective. The problem though is the cost. Lucentis costs around £740 a dose. Avastin is much cheaper, coming in at just £50 or £60 a dose.

Last November the Royal College of Ophthalmologists called for Avastin to be made available for treating the condition on the NHS, arguing that making this drug available would save the NHS more than £100 million. This was followed up in February this year when clinical leaders from 120 clinical commissioning groups called on ministers to clarify the situation.

Now the latest row is that accusations are being made that Novartis has been running a campaign to derail research into Avastin to protect its own interests in the expensive already licenced Lucentis.

The editor in chief of the British Medical Journal Dr Fiona Godlee has said pharmaceutical companies should not be able to block access to alternative drugs. Novartis are denying the allegations.

What is crazy about the situation is that if you go on up the ladder, the two companies which make the two different drugs for wet age-related degeneration are both owned by the same company Roche.

For many of us, it is irrelevant as long as we get treated by one of the drugs. But of course this is costing the NHS a lot of money which could be saved if the alternative drug is officially approved.

But the cost factor is a major problem for people who may have retired overseas or for other reasons are having to cover their medical care through insurance or their own funds.

With the disease so common, it is worth reminding yourself of the initial symptoms. Early indications of wet age-related macular degeneration include problems with your central vision; seeing what is directly ahead of you. Other symptoms can include colours appearing less vibrant; blurry text when you are trying to read and difficult recognising people’s faces. The disease usually affects both eyes.

More information is available on:
http://www.macularsociety.org/How-we-help/About-us/Newsroom/News-stories/drugs-firm-accused-of-trying-to-block-access-to-avastin

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