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More research on treatments for age related Macular Degeneration

Discussions are once again underway on whether an affordable and effective drug for a major eye problem should be routinely made available on the NHS.

Avastin, made by Roche, has been used in research to treat age-related macular degeneration. AMD is one of the main causes of sight loss in older people.

The studies show that Avastin is just as effective and safe as Lucentis, an officially approved treatment for AMD, but is a great deal cheaper. Treatment with Avastin would cost about £70 per injection compared with £700 for Lucentis.

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists are now saying that Avantis should routinely be made available on the NHS. Switching to the drug could save the NHS millions of pounds and might help ensure everyone gets the treatment they need when they need it.

At the moment hospital eye services have difficulty in coping with demand.

The Macular Society of the UK say that the development of Lucentis for wet age-related macular degeneration has been a huge step forward and can help stop the progression of the disease in more than 90 per cent of sufferers. However, regular injections are required and therefore the cost adds up.

The Society says Avastin was originally developed to treat cancer but it does work in a similar way to Lucentis. However, it is not licensed for use in ophthalmology in the UK and has not been through the same clinical trials. As a result, the use of Avastin is controversial.

While that debate goes on, other treatments are also being researched, including the use of a class of drugs that have been used to treat AIDS. This is being researched at the University of Kentucky in America. Dr Jayakrishna Ambati, who has led the latest study, says macular generation affects an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

"With the aging of the population, it is projected to affect 200 million people by the year 2020. It is therefore critical that we develop new and improved treatments for this disease, which is growing like an epidemic," Ambati said.

The symptoms of AMD are usually first noticed in problems with your central vision, seeing what is directly in front of you.

In AMD, your central vision becomes increasingly blurred, leading to symptoms such as:

  • - colours appearing less vibrant
  • difficulty reading because the text appears blurry
  • difficulty recognising people's faces
AMD usually affects both eyes, but the speed at which it progresses can vary from eye to eye.

There is more information about macular degeneration at the Macular Society website

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