Cheaper macular degeneration treatment may be as effective

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The cancer drug Avastin could be as effective as the more expensive Lucentis at improving the vision of seniors with macular degeneration, according to a report from The New York Times.

Lucentis has been approved to treat the eye disease, while physicians have used Avastin as an off-label drug. They say the latter appears to work as well as Lucentis, with the difference coming down to cost: Lucentis costs $2,000 per injection into the eye, while Avastin costs $50.

The National Eye Institute sponsored a randomized trial involving 1,200 patients to compare the two drugs, and the results will be revealed this Sunday at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Fort Lauderdale, FL. While the findings are being kept secret, two people familiar with the results told the New York Times that improved vision resulted from either drug. Patients in the study are being followed for a second year.

The results could mean costs savings for Medicare. In 2008, Medicare paid $20 million for 480,000 Avastin injections for treatment of the eye disease, compared with $537 million for 337,000 Lucentis injections, according to a University of Miami study.

 

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