David Lock: Avastin and Lucentis—It’s time for NHS commissioners to act rationally by limiting the choices for wet AMD patients
26 Sep, 14 | by BMJ
The news that a Cochrane Review has concluded that Avastin (bevacizumab) is as safe as Lucentis (ranibizumab) to treat patients with wet age related macular degeneration (“wet AMD”), along with other studies that have shown the two drugs have broadly the same level of clinical effectiveness, comes as no surprise to those of us who have been involved in this debate for a number of years.
Lucentis is a “licensed” drug for wet AMD, whereas Avastin is not licensed for this condition. But Avastin is not an unlicensed drug per se; it is just licensed for a different condition, namely treating patients with certain cancers. The beneficial use of the drug for wet AMD patients seems an unintended and highly cost effective benefit. There is nothing unlawful in clinicians using an unlicensed drug to treat NHS patients, as paediatricians know because they use unlicensed drugs all the time. So why should the NHS keep paying out for a drug that is 10 times more expensive than an equally safe and clinically effective alternative? more…