NIH to compare 2 drugs for eye disease

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) said it will fund a clinical trial to compare two drugs used to treat advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Genentech’s Lucentis and Avastin. Lucentis, approved earlier this year, has been shown to slow the rate of progression of vision loss from advanced AMD. In addition to a low rate of developing vision loss, approximately one-third of patients treated in these trials had improved vision at 12 months. Avastin, almost an identical molecule to Lucentis, is approved for treating colorectal cancer, but not specifically for ophthalmic use. However, ophthalmologists have been widely using it off-label to treat advanced AMD for the past year. “The results are basically identical and [Avastin] is just as safe,” Robert Cykiert, MD, clinical associate professor and an attending in the Cornea Service at New York University Medical Center, wrote in an e-mail to MM&M. However, the two differ in price. Avastin costs around $250 per treatment, while a Lucentis treatment has been estimated to cost about $1,500. The new comparative study, authorized by the National Eye Institute (NEI), will assess the relative safety and effectiveness of Avastin (bevacizumab) and Lucentis (ranibizumab). Lucentis was developed by Novartis AG and Genentech. Genentech has US marketing rights, while Novartis sells Lucentis in the rest of the world. Macugen, co-marketed by Pfizer and OSI Pharmaceuticals, is the only other drug approved for the treatment of advanced AMD.