A new drug being made available on the NHS could help save the sight of thousands of people with an eye disease that is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidelines recommending the drug Lucentis (ranibizumab), in a U-turn on draft guidance published last year.
The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), which has campaigned for Lucentis for thousands of people with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), has welcomed the move.
AMD destroys the central region of the retina, the macula, leading to progressive loss of sight. The dry form of the disease is far more common, but the wet type is the more aggressive and accounts for around 90% of blindness caused by the condition.
The NICE guidance recommends Lucentis for treating wet AMD, and applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The drug is already approved in Scotland. Another drug – Macugen (pegaptanib) – was rejected as not being cost-effective.
The guidance states that the NHS will only fund 14 injections, at a cost of £761.20 – or £10,700 per patient over a two-year period. The cost of further injections will be met by the manufacturer, Novartis.
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