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Published on 24 July 2008

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Victory for eye-disease patients

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Patients with degenerative eye disease have won a test case High Court legal battle over NHS funding for treatment.

Three claimants and 100 others in Warwickshire will now get NHS-funded treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD).

Novartis, makers of Lucentis, a new drug used to treat the condition, and the Warwickshire Primary Care Trust have agreed to implement the latest NICE guidance on sight-saving drugs.

It stipulates that most patients with wet AMD should get treatment with Lucentis, and that Novartis will pay for drug costs beyond 14 treatments.

The drug is available in some parts of the country, but because of its cost, PCTs have a discretion on funding.

The patients argued in court that Warwickshire healthcare chiefs acted “unlawfully and irrationally” in refusing to pay for the drug except in “exceptional” cases – which, they said, did not include the three claimants.

The deal struck by Novartis and the PCT is on an interim basis pending final guidance from NICE on the cost-effectiveness of Lucentis.

Novartis had contacted the court and said that, after consultations with the Department of Health, it might be ready to make treatment available in Warwickshire under a reimbursement scheme before publication of NICE’s final guidance.

Copyright PA Business 2008

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