Macugen was the first anti-VEGF drug treatment for wet macular degeneration approved by the FDA. In 2004, Macugen was received its FDA approval and was hailed as a major breakthrough in the available treatments for the eye disease wet macular dgeneration. Manufactured jointly by EyeTech Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer Pharmaceuitcals, Macugen has recently faced competition in the anti-VEGF treatment area for wet macular degeneration.
Pegaptanib or Macugen, targets the abnormal blood vessel growth beneath the retina, one of the signs that a person has wet macular degeneration. This abnormal blood vessel growth causes leakages and bleeding, resulting in scarring of the sensitive retinal cells. This scarring is what leads to the loss of central vision in patients diagnosed with the eye disease wet macular degeneration, accounting for approximately 90 percent of the vision loss in those diagnosed.
Macugen is a vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitor (anti-VEGF) drug which is injected directly into the eye. It works by blocking the growth of abnormal blood vessels and in doing so prevents leakage. If injected early enough into a patient diagnosed with wet macular degeneration, the damage typically associated with this eye disease can be slowed. It is important to note that Macugen is not a cure for wet macular degeneration, but is a treatment. It must be administered approximately every six weeks to be effective against the eye disease.
Shortly after receiving its approval in 2004, some patients treated with Macugen developed severe reactions such as naphalaxis/anaphylactoid, including angioedema. These conditions followed the use of Macugen with various other medications as part of the injection preparation. Angioedema is similar to hives but occurs beneath the skin instead of on the surface and is characterized by deep swelling around the eyes and lips (sometimes on the genitals, hands and feet).
While Macugen has shown that it can prevent severe vision loss in patients with wet macular degeneration, it requires injections to be readministered every six weeks. Only a small sample of those patients treated with macugen showed improvement in their vision – approximately 6 percent. The average patient treated with Macugen still had loss of visual acuity after two years.
With the discovery of Macugen, the door was open for other anti-VEGF treatments and research to take place, providing patients with wet macular degeneration more treatment options.