Avastin Complications Investigated

Macular Degeneration Patients treated with Avastin in Canada have shown a spike in eye inflammations causing public health authorities to investigate the problems among those patients that have been treated for macular degeneration with the cancer drug Avastin.  The increase in the number of cases were first noticed in British Columbia, but authorities have indicated that there also appears to be similar rise across the country for those macular degeneration patients treated with Avastin.

Public health authorities are trying to draw attention to the problem with the Avastin treatments for macular degeneration in hopes of determining if this is occurring across Canada.

The problem is believed to stem from a particular lot of the drug that was distributed widely around the world but not in the United States.  According to public health authorities in Canada, the affected lot of Avastin is lot number B3002B028.

Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical company that manufactured the drug, has been cooperating with both Health Canada and the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control.  Ophthalmologists have already been alerted of the problem with Avastin that may be used for macular degeneration treatments.

Avastin, originally developed as a cancer drug, has not been approved for use as a treatment for Macular Degeneration.  Roche has indicated that it does not recommend using Avastin to treat macular degeneration.  According to Samantha Ouimet, a spokesperson of Roche Canada, “Absolutely we do not recommend this.  They’re taking it out of its packaging, repackaging it and injecting it into people’s eyes.  This comes in a bag and it’s meant for intravenous use for people with cancer.”

Roche has resisted warning people to not use Avastin as a treatment for macular degeneration because the statement could be interpreted as promoting the off-label use of the drug to treat the eye condition.

The problem with the Avastin treatments were first detected in October 2008 when British Columbia ophthalmologists began detecting problems with people treated with Avastin for macular degeneration.  These patients began experiencing acute intra-ocular inflammation at rates much higher than was previously known.  After an investigation, it was noted that the rate was almost 10 times higher among patients treated with Avastin from the lot in question.

According to officials, there are no problems reported with using Avastin as a macular degeneration treatment in other countries and no reports of problems in cancer patients who received treatments of Avastin from the same lot.

The inflammation caused with the treatment of Avastin causes cloudy vision, but appears to clear up after a short period of time.

Roche has indicated that there have been no problems discovered in the production process used for the lot of Avastin and that there has been no problem determined with the vials of drug either.  The investigation is ongoing.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, and Avastin has been used for some time as an off-label treatment for wet macular degeneration.