Avastin more likely to cause blindness than Lucentis, study reports

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The cheaper of the two rival macular degeneration treatments could lead to blindness or other adverse events, new research determined.

Lucentis and Avastin are both used to treat the wet version of age-related macular degeneration. But a new study from Queen's University finds that Avastin, traditionally a cancer drug, carries a much higher risk for the development of serious intraocular inflammation, which can lead to blindness.

The study was a review of 1,600 cases of patients who had been given either Lucentis or Avastin. Researcher Sanjay Sharma, M.D. found that study participants who were given Avastin were 12 times more likely to develop intraocular inflammation.

"This is of concern for patients receiving Avastin in the eye," Sharma said. "It is particularly important because many of our seniors need numerous injections — so the risk is cumulative."

Both drugs are injected directly into the user's eye and are made by Genentech. Since both drugs have been found to be equally effective in studies, insurance companies and government health plans prefer the off-label use of Avastin, which costs one-tenth of the price of Lucentis.

The study was published in the June issue of the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology.