Macular Degeneration Drugs Pose Risks

New drugs developed to treat both cancer and the eye disease macular degeneration pose increased risk of heart attack and stroke.  According to research published by Dr. Jayakrishna Ambati of the University of Kentucky, anti-VEGF drugs may pose serious side effects when used as treatments for cancer and wet macular degeneration.

Drugs such as Avastin, Lucentis and Macugen work by blocking the growth of problematic blood vessel growth in areas such as the eye when treating macular degeneration or in tumours when treating cancer.  The research by Dr. Ambati suggests that these anti-VEGF treatments may also harm people by blocking the growth of healthy blood vessels in healthy areas of the body.  The growth of such blood vessels is essential for things such as reproduction and healing.

Ambati has indicated that the problem occurs because these man-made molecules are created to target and “turn off” a disease causing gene that don’t function the way many scientists believe they do.  This research casts doubt on the effectiveness of Nobel Prize winning drugs that have been developed to treat both cancer and macular degeneration patients.  “This work really raises a very serious red flg,” Ambata said, when discussing his research.

Drug manufacturers have dismissed the study, even though it was published in the respected Journal of Nature.  The drug manaufacturers have indicated that patients who have taken the macular degeneration drugs and anti-VEGF cancer drugs have been followed for several years and have shown no side effects.  Many of the drug manufacturers responsible for these anti-VEGF treatments have invested billions of dollars in research and are quick to point out that clinical trials have shown no indication of what Dr. Ambati suggests in his research.

Granted that clinical trials have indicated some risks, doctors and eye care professionals should educate both themselves and their patients on the potential risks associated with these macular degeneration drugs.