Lucentis has been recommended as the treatment for age-related macular degeneration in the United Kingdom by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Yet people are being denied funding for Lucentis treatment under old criteria established prior to the recommendation. While a final decision is expected in the next few months, current cases of macular degeneration and funding for Lucentis are being reviewed on a case by case basis, leaving some seniors with little options open to them for a treatment of the eye disease.
In some cases, individuals are expected to go blind from macular degeneration and yet there is no funding being provided for Lucentis.
In March 2008, Dorothy Robinson of Collinwood Court, Royston was one of the recent senior women denied coverage for Lucentis to treat her wet macular degeneration. The 87 year old grandmother had exhausted most of her saving to pay for private treatments required to save her vision. Now in April 2008, Majorie Brunney, 84, has been refused coverage for the same eye disease treatment and is being forced to pay thousands of pounds for the Lucentis to save her vision from the effects of macular degeneration.
While one can understand the delays that can be caused to develop policy and criteria around providing coverage, what governing bodies should recognize is the urgency in this case. Wet macular degeneration progresses very rapidly and causes blindness in approximately 90 percent of those diagnosed with the eye disease if left untreated. Given that there is an approved treatment that will be covered, it is alarming to see that some exceptions cannot be made to save these women’s eyesight.
Injections of this anti-VEGF drug Lucentis have been shown to have amazing results halting the rapid progression of wet macular degeneration, and in approximately one-third of the cases has even reversed the damage caused by the disease. The key however is early diagnosis followed by early treatment. Delays that are being caused now in developing policy and criteria means that these women are being delayed a sight saving treatment of Lucentis. One has to wonder how many other individuals in the UK are being subjected to the same delays and not being provided treatment of Lucentis.
Wet macular degeneration results from the formation of abnormal blood vessels in the retina of the eye which bleed and leak fluid causing scarring on the macula. The macula is responsible for the central vision in a person and in the case of wet macular degeneration, the loss of vision is often rapid if left untreated after diagnosis. Injections of drugs such as Lucentis stops the abnormal blood vessels from forming and spreading and even destroys the roots of those abnormal blood vessels that have already formed, preventing futher damage to the eye.
The issue that most governing bodies such as NICE must face centres around the cost of the drug and the impact of providing this expensive macular degeneration treatment to patients. Generally, patients must receive a series of injections over the course of several months. With each injection costing thousands and the number of macular degeneration patients growing largely because of an aging population, the potential impact on already strained health care systems is enormous.
While government regulators are left to struggle with these decisions, Dorothy and Majorie are left with a harsh choice – financial hardship or blindness. Which one would you choose?
Lucentis should be made available to save the vision of these women in the United Kingdom. Wet macular degeneration can be halted and in some cases can have the damage reversed.