Skip to content

    Macular Degeneration Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Avastin as Good as Lucentis for AMD Treatment

    Study: Less-Expensive Avastin Treats Age-Related Macular Degeneration as Well as Lucentis
    By
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

    April 29, 2011 -- Fifty-dollars worth of Avastin prevents blindness from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and does it just as well as $2,000 worth of Lucentis, a federally funded clinical trial finds.

    AMD, the leading cause of blindness in the U.S., is the result of abnormal growth and leakage of blood vessels in the retina. Lucentis, specifically designed for AMD treatment, prevents abnormal blood vessel growth. It works in almost exactly the same way as Avastin, an older cancer drug.

    While ophthalmologists were waiting for Lucentis to work its way through the drug-approval pipeline, they began treating AMD patients with small doses of Avastin, even though it had never been tested for safety or effectiveness in AMD patients.

    But it seemed to work, so Avastin became a common treatment for AMD. Five years ago, Lucentis won FDA approval as the only treatment proven to prevent blindness in people with AMD. That proof was based on clinical trials in which patients received monthly injections of Lucentis.

    Everyone would have switched to Lucentis except for one thing: cost. Genentech makes both Avastin and Lucentis. For cancer treatment, huge doses of Avastin are needed. The tiny dose needed for AMD costs only $50. A single dose of Lucentis costs $2,000.

    Medicare had little choice but to pay for Lucentis, as it was the only proven drug for AMD. But ophthalmologists continued to prefer Avastin. And instead of monthly injections of either drug, doctors were treating patients only on an as-needed basis -- that is, only when their AMD appeared to be acting up. Patients prefer the as-needed treatment, as both Lucentis and Avastin must be injected directly into the eye.

    Which treatment was right? The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, stepped in. The National Eye Institute paid for a clinical trial in which Lucentis and Aventis competed head-to-head among 1,208 AMD patients at 44 U.S. sites. The study also looked at whether monthly injections were better then as-needed injections.

    Now the one-year results of that study are in. The bottom line: Avastin works just as well as Lucentis, and as-needed injections work just as well as monthly injections.

    Today on WebMD

    What Is Macular Degeneration
    Article
    human eye
    Article
     
    What Someone With Macular Degeneration Sees
    Tool
    picture of the eyes
    Image Collection
     

    eye exam
    Article
    Treatments For Macular Degeneration
    Article
     
    the aging eye
    Video
    senior woman wearing glasses
    Article
     

    WebMD Special Sections