NIH launches Avastin-Lucentis trial

Gentlemen (and ladies), start your eye injections. In other Avastin news, the big trial pitting the cancer drug against Genentech sister med Lucentis is now underway. Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the independent trial is designed to show how the two meds stack up in treating age-related macular degeneration.

Lucentis has been FDA-approved for use against wet AMD. Though Avastin isn't, eye docs have commonly used it off-label, saying it's almost as effective as Lucentis, if not as effective. And Avastin costs much less: hundreds per treatment versus thousands.

The sticking point has been that, to use Avastin in the eye, it had to be repackaged by compounding pharmacists. Genentech moved last year to restrict supplies to those pharmacies, saying that the FDA was concerned about the repackaging. But Genentech had no plans to study Avastin for macular degeneration, preferring to push its already-approved and more expensive Lucentis.

So the NIH is doing it for them. After all, because macular degeneration tends to be a disease of the elderly, it's Medicare paying for much of the treatment. So the government has a vested interest in proving the cheaper treatment is a viable alternative.

- read the press release from the NIH
- see the story in the Wall Street Journal

Related Articles:
Genentech rethinks Avastin limits. Report
Eye docs confront Genentech exec. Report
Why should Medicare pay for Lucentis? Report
Genentech to curb Avastin sales. Report
Doctors balancing effects, costs of Lucentis and Avastin. Report