Avastin Macular Degeneration What You Need To Know
Do you know about Avastin Macular Degeneration?
Avastin is the brand name for Bevaciumab.
The FDA approved it in 2004 for use in the treatment of some cancers and is used as a first or second line treatment for patients.
Also in 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for wet macular degeneration (AMD) approved Lucentis (ranibizamab).
Many doctors have argued however, that Avastin (Bevaciumab) is effective as a treatment of wet Macular Degeneration and it costs considerably less than Lucentis.
Avastin is only approved as a cancer drug and not as an FDA approved treatment for wet macular degeneration and those physicians prescribing this as a Macular Degeneration Treatment were prescribing Avastin as an off label use.
Off-label uses of drugs do not violate any laws.
Any approved drug may be used by a licensed practitioner for uses other than those stated on the label.
The physician must make decisions based on his or her best judgment and what they have learned about the drugs through medical journals and their colleagues.
As Avastin was the first clinically available angiogenesis inhibitor in the United States it inhibits new cancer cells by blocking the growth of blood vessels in per-existing tumors.
A solid, non-liquid, tumor needs to grow additional blood vessels to be able to reach a certain size.
With Avastin and Lucentis, things are not always as they appear.
This is more than a simple case of off label prescribing.
The same pharmaceutical company, Genentech, produces both Avastin and Lucentis and Lucentis is a direct derivative from the original drug Avastin.
In October 2007, Genentech announced it would limit the supply of Avastin macular degeneration for ocular uses starting January 1, 2008.
This announcement led to many outcries from the ophthalmology community, especially since it was felt that Genentech was putting profits ahead of patient care largely because Lucentis costs approximately $2,000 per treatment and Avastin costs approximately $100 - $150 per treatment.
This is compounded by the fact that experts cannot determine the difference in eyes treated with Avastin macular degeneration and eyes treated with Lucentis.
Wet macular degeneration or AMD is a condition that causes Loss of Vision from the growth of abnormal blood vessel choriocapillaries, through Bruch's membrane.
This eventually leads to blood and protein leaking below the macula, an oval spot near the middle of The Retina in the human eye.
With AMD rapid, often irreversible vision loss can occur through the leaking, bleeding and scaring of the blood vessels if left untreated.
The fact that Lucentis costs much more than Avastin has not gone unnoticed.
In the United States the Senate Special Committee on Aging had contemplated holding hearings surrounding this controversy of Genentech's pricing for Lucentis.
While this did not occur, Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl did call for an investigation into Genentech's decision to limit the supply of Avastin macular degeneration.
Genentech did lift the restrictions on the supply of Avastin macular degeneration when faced with the threat of hearings and an investigation, and promised to provide free Lucentis for an NIH/National Eye Institute sponsored head-to-head study designed to evaluate Avastin and Lucentis.
This entire controversy will continue for some time until trials and studies into these two closely related drugs continue and the findings are presented and reviewed by experts.
Until then, the controversy will continue and it is the patients and governments who pay the ultimate price, one with their vision, their other with their bottom line.
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