Health authorities in Florida and Tennessee have indicated several people suffering from wet macular degeneration recently treated with the Avastin have been blinded.
Approved initially as a cancer drug, Avastin has been used to treat macular degeneration as an off-label treatment because it costs approximately $50 per treatment compared to $2,000 for Lucentis.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in seniors. Avastin when injected into the eye prevents abnormal blood vessels associated with wet macular degeneration from forming and leaking, destroying the central vision in those suffering from the eye disease.
Using Avastin as a macular degeneration treatment requires the drug to be divided into tiny doses for injection into the eye. It is this process that introduces a risk of having the drug contaminated by baceteria that increases the risk of inflammation and infection. This is apparently what happened to the patients treated with Avastin in both Florida and Tennessee.
According to an alert issued by the FDA, at least 12 of the Miami patients suffered eye inflmmations. Some of these patients lost all remaining site after being treated with Avastin. All the injections involved were traced to a single pharmacy that had divided the drug for treating the eye disease.
Several of the patients suffering from Macular Degeneration treated with the injections of AVastin developed strains of Streptococcus resulting in brain damage and blindness.
Genetech, the manufacturer of Avastin has previously cautioned against the use of the drug for treating macular degeneration. A company spokesman has stated “Avastin is not manufactured or approved and to date has not been proven safe for use in the eye.”
Eye specialists continue to use and promote the use of Avastin to treat macular degeneration, indicating the incidents of blindness resulted from careless procedures by pharmacies and not from the drug itself.
According to Dr. Philip Rosenfeld, a retina specialist who pioneered the use of Avastin as a treatment for macular degeneration, stated with more than millions of injections of the drug used to treat macular degeneration, it took over 6 years for this incident to happen and that use of Avastin should not discourage use of the drug.
Several clinical trials, including one conducted by the National Eye Institute had found that Avastin and Lucentis were the same in preserving or improving the vision of those patients suffering from macular degeneration after one year.