Skip to content

    Children's Health

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Drug Used for Preemie Eye Disease Tied to Problems

    Babies given Avastin were far more likely to have neurological complications, study shows

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Amy Norton

    HealthDay Reporter

    FRIDAY, March 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A drug used to treat an eye disease in premature infants may be linked to serious disabilities such as cerebral palsy and hearing loss, a new study suggests.

    The drug in question is Avastin (bevacizumab), a cancer drug that fights tumors by cutting off their blood supply. In the past few years, doctors have also been using it to treat retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP. Avastin isn't approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically to treat ROP, but doctors still use the drug for what's known as an "off-label" indication.

    The current findings do not prove that Avastin is to blame, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Julie Morin of the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center, in Montreal, Canada. They only show an association between the drug and serious complications in babies treated for ROP.

    ROP is a potentially blinding disease that mainly affects tiny preemies born before the 31st week of pregnancy, according to the U.S. National Eye Institute (NEI). It's caused by abnormal blood vessel development in the retina, the part of the eye that receives light and sends messages to the brain.

    Each year in the United States, 14,000 to 16,000 infants develop some degree of ROP, according to the NEI.

    The standard treatment for more severe ROP is laser surgery, which burns away the periphery of the retina, where there are no blood vessels. That usually causes a regression in the abnormal blood vessel growth, the NEI says.

    But a 2011 study found that injections of Avastin might offer a simpler, even more effective treatment.

    Since then, a growing number of doctors have been using the drug to treat severe ROP, said Dr. Graham Quinn. He's a pediatric ophthalmologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

    "A lot of people were really sold on this, because it seems like an easy treatment for a very serious disease," explained Quinn, co-author of an editorial published with the new study in the March 17 issue of Pediatrics.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    child with red rash on cheeks
    What’s that rash?
    plate of fruit and veggies
    How healthy is your child’s diet?
     
    smiling baby
    Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
    Middle school band practice
    Understanding your child’s changing body.
     

    worried kid
    fitArticle
    jennifer aniston
    Slideshow
     
    Measles virus
    Article
    sick child
    Slideshow
     

    babyapp
    New
    Child with adhd
    Slideshow
     
    rl with friends
    fitSlideshow
    Child Coughing or Sneezing into Elbow
    Article