FDA panel to review drug that prevents vision loss in elderly patients

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An advisory panel for the FDA today will review findings on Macugen, an experimental drug injected into the eye to prevent vision loss.

The panel of outside experts will review safety and effectiveness data from studies conducted by Eyetech Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Pfizer Inc., which are developing Macugen. The studies indicated that 70 percent of patients who received the lowest dose of Macugen lost only three lines of vision on an eye chart, compared with 55 percent of those who received the placebo, according to information posted on the FDA website.

Macugen treats age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that destroys all eyesight except peripheral vision. Patients who suffer from wet AMD, the most severe form on the disease, see what looks like a black hole in their center of vision while reading and driving, due to abnormal blood vessels leaking and damaging the macula. Macugen treatment blocks VEGF, the protein largely responsible for blood vessel overgrowth in the eye.

An estimated 1.2 Americans suffer from wet AMD, and the number is expected to rise as the baby boomers retire.