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VA Discontinues Use of Avastin for Macular Degeneration

Due to a number of infections, the Department of Veterans Affairs recently discontinued the use of Roche’s Avastin for wet age-related macular degeneration.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has ceased ophthalmologic use of Avastin pending the results of an ongoing investigation and will advise its physicians to consider alternate therapies,” the VA said in a statement.

Avastin is approved as a drug used for cancer treatment. However, it is a cheaper alternative to Lucentis, the drug approved for use in the treatment of macular degeneration. The cost of
Lucentis is approximately $2,000 per dose, while Avastin costs about $50 when used for macular degeneration.

Although pharmaceutical makers are allowed to promote drugs only for approved uses, doctors are free to prescribe them as they see fit, leading to unapproved, or off-label, use of many medicines.

Results from a large scientific study released in April found that Avastin works just as well as Lucentis for the eye disease, but resulted in more side effects that required hospitalization.

Roche spokesman Terence Hurley stated “there is a growing body of evidence that suggests injecting off-label Avastin into a person’s eye may pose greater risks than Lucentis,” citing the potential for infection and inflammation.

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