United Kingdom Approves Macular Degeneration Treatment Lucentis

Patients in England suffering from macular degeneration will now have access to the leading treatment of the eye disease, Lucentis. In an announcement made today by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), all patients suffering from the eye disease wet macular degeneration which causes blindness are to get access to the treatment with a drug called Lucentis.

Developed by Genentech/Novartis, Lucentis is already available to patients in Scotland with both Wales and Northern Ireland stating they will fund the macular degeneration treatments. The announcement comes after an agreement between NICE and the drug manufacturer which will see Novartis pay for any injections over an allotted 14 (which will be covered by NICE). This agreement would see that primary care trusts (PCTs) will be required to pay 10,000 pounds per eye for the treatments of Lucentis, with any additional costs for injections covered by the manufacturer.

The PCTs have three months to comply with this decision to provide the drug Lucentis to macular degeneration patients.

Clinical trials of Lucentis have shown considerable promise in halting the progression and in some cases reversing the damage caused by macular degeneration. Because of this, some PCTs were funding the Lucentis treatments while others were not, causing confusion over coverage of the drug in the United Kingdom.

The decision to now fund the Lucentis treatments comes shortly after three pensioners had won a high court decision to have the treatments covered. This forced NICE to expedite the approval of the Lucentis treatments.

With approximately 20,000 people in England being diagnosed each year with wet macular degeneration, the costs for providing the Lucentis treatments are expected to be enormous. Nice chief executive Andrew Dillon stated “The costs need to be balanced against the likely cost savings. [Macular degeneration] results in reduced quality of life and increased risks of illness, particularly in relation to accidents and psychological ill-health.”

Steve Winyard, head of campaigns at the RNIB said “Finally the torment faced by elderly people forced to either spend their life savings on private [macular degeneration] treatment or go blind is over.”

Macular degeneration comes in two forms.  Wet macular degeneration is the most severe form of the eye disease and account for 90 percent of the blindness.  Lucentis has proven to be the most effective treatment of wet macular degeneration available on the market today.