Lucentis Treatment for Wet Macular Degeneration – The UK and Canada

The debate over Lucentis as a treatment for wet macular degeneration is continuing in both the United Kingdom and in Canada.  Both Canada and the UK have publicly funded health care systems and with the governing bodies in these countries recommending Lucentis be funded for treating wet macular degeneration, there are concerns over what this will mean for the health care systems.

The burden for funding Lucentis could potentially bankrupt the health care systems in both countries.  Yet with Lucentis treatments being the leading treatment for wet macular degeneration, why are the countries concerned?

In Canada, Ontario and Quebec provide funding for Lucentis.  Macular degeneration patients outside of these provinces are left in the dark as to the status of coverage for this eye disease drug.  Patients in Ontario are still facing confusion as to whehter or not they would be covered if their macular degeneration had been diagnosed prior to January 1, 2008.

In the United Kingdom, there are concerns as to whether ether eis the infrastructure, manpower and facilities to provide coverage of Lucentis.  The number of people who need Lucentis treatments for macular degeneration is continuing to rise.  Even with coverage now provided, many doctors are expressing concerns as to the availability of staff to meet the growing dmand as more than 25,000 patients are being diagnosed each year with age-related macular degeneration.

The rapid progression of wet macular degeneration means there is an urgency to provide funding for this drug.  The longer it takes for coverage, the more likely the damage to a persons eyes will be permanent.

Of major concerns in both Canada and the UK is the cost of Lucentis treatments.  With both publicly funded health care systems strained already, there are rising concerns that the cost of Lucentis injections (approximately $1,600 per injection in Canada and $750 pounds in the UK) will bankrupt the health care system.

These concerns have resulted in limitations being imposed on the number of Lucentis treatments for those patients suffering from macular degeneration.  For example, in Canada, the recommendation has limited the number of Lucentis treatments for wet macular degeneration to 15 and that these treatmetns be limited to the “better seeing eye”.  In the United Kingdom, the NHS has announced a limit of 14 Lucentis injections.

With the cost of Lucentis under fire in both countries, many doctors and ophthalmologists have criticized the drug company for the cost of the drug, especially when off-label Avastin, the drug which Lucentis was developed from, costs approximately one-tenth the cost of Lucentis.  However, Avastin is approved only as a cancer drug and the use of this drug in the eye is not covered under both the Canadian and United Kingdom health systems.

Both Canada and the United Kingdom have recommended that funding for Lucentis as a treatment for macular degeneration be approved.  As policy and procedures are adapted to provide Lucentis to the patients, many have to wait or seek alternative treatments for their macular degeneration.