Avastin has become the inexpensive drug of choice to treat wet macular degeneration. Originally developed as a cancer drug, Avastin been accompanied by increased incidents of hypertension, but little is known about the effects of intravitreal Avastin when used for treatments of macular degeneration. There have been very few systemic side effects have been associated with the intravitreal use of the two other anti-VEGF drugs, Lucentis and Macugen, both of which are frequently used in the treatment of wet macular degeneration.
However, unlike those drugs, Avastin is not approved by the FDA for intravitreal uses for macular degeneration. Because of this, it has not been subjected to the same rigorous safety testing that both Lucentis and Macugen have gone through. Avastin as a treatment for wet macular degeneration continues to be an off-label use of the drug.
In the most recent study, 82 patients were selected with a mean age of 67 years. These patients were divided into two groups: group A comprised patients who had hypertension and were under medication with antihypertensive drugs and group B composed of patients with normal blood pressure and therefore not on any drugs. All subjects were graded according to their blood pressure levels before a single intravitreal dose of Avastin (0.05 ml; 1.25 mg) administered. These patients had their blood pressure measured again at day 1, as well as at 1, 3, and 6 weeks following the injection of Avastin for wet macular degeneration.
The study showed that among persons with hypertension (group A), the systolic blood pressure levels showed significant increases at weeks 1, 3, and 6 compared with baseline. Similarly, diastolic blood pressure levels were significantly higher at weeks 3 and 6. For those patients treated with Avastin who had no blood pressure problems, (group B), the mean systolic and diastolic blood pressures showed significant elevation only at week 3. The percentages of both group A and B patients with normal blood pressure decreased at week 3 compared with baseline.
Because of this, the researchers concluded that there was a risk of elevated blood pressure or persistence of hypertension in hypertensive patients after intravitreal Avastin injection for the eye disease macular degeneration.
This should raise concerns for patients who are treated with Avastin for their macular degeneration, especially if they have a history of high blood pressure. As with any treatment, patients must make sure they consult a physician and be full aware of the risk associated with any drug treatment.