Drug appears to improve vision in seniors
Lucentis (ranibizumab) appears to be the first drug to improve eyesight for patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in people over 60. Experts say that's likely to give Genentech and Novartis, which has overseas marketing rights, an edge in the AMD market. Macugen, from Pfizer and Eyetech Pharmaceuticals, and Novartis' Visudyne are able to maintain vision in patients but not improve it, according to published reports.
All of the drugs are aimed at patients with a form of the condition called wet AMD, caused by abnormal growth of blood vessels.
A year into the two-year Lucentis trial, about 95 percent of patients maintained or improved their vision, Genentech says, compared with 62 percent in the control group. But the biotech firm has not revealed the exact percentage of the 716 subjects who improved, prompting caution among some observers.
"Without having the numbers in there, I would be hesitant to say we've had a breakthrough," Dr. Joan W. Miller, head of ophthalmology at Harvard and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, told The New York Times.
Complete data from the phase III trial won't be released until later this year.
Still, a Genentech official told The Wall Street Journal that the upbeat results could accelerate the firm's FDA submission for Lucentis, ahead of results from a second trial due to conclude later this year.