Nice Approves £10,000 Eye Injections for NHS Patients
Posted Nov 21 2008 4:29pm
Sufferers of the most common cause of progressive blindness in the elderly are due to receive a drug that cost £10,700 per patient on the NHS. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has approved the Use of Lucentis for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The advice should mean that thousands of people will receive the treatment, the most effective so far in treating the condition. Nice rejected an alternative medicine, Macugen.
The guidance was welcomed by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), which has campaigned for Lucentis.
Steve Winyard said: “We’ve been waiting for this for over two years. It is a victory for thousands, bringing overwhelming relief to desperate people across the country.
“Finally the torment faced by elderly people forced to either spend their life savings on private treatment or go blind, is over.”
AMD is the main cause of sight loss among the elderly in the UK, and destroys the central region of the retina, the macula, which leads to progressive loss of vision. It comes in two forms – wet and dry – with the dry being the most common.
Wet type is more aggressive however, and accounts for around 90 percent of blindness caused by the condition.
In December, Nice dropped one of the more controversial aspects f its guidance, which suggested that patients would have to have lost site in one eye before they would receive treatment for the other.
The NHS will fund just 14 Lucentis injections, with the cost of any more being met by the manufacturer - in this case Novartis. This “dose-capping” scheme was recommended by Novartis and has been agreed with the Department of Health.
The cost of a single Lucentis injection is £761.20 (excluding VAT). Over two years and 14 injections, the cost will be £10,700per patient, assuming eight injections in the first year and six in the second year.
Andrew Dillon, Nice chief executive, said today: “Lucentis is an expensive drug, costing more than £10,000 for each eye treated, but that cost needs to be balanced against the likely cost savings.
“It has been estimated that the costs related to sight impairment for patients treated with Lucentis are around £8,000 cheaper than for patients who receive best supportive care over a 10 year period.
“Our guidance means that patients who are suitable for this treatment will have the same access to it, irrespective of where they live.”
There are 26,000 new cases of wet AMD in the UK each year. The condition can lead to blindness in as little as three months if left untreated.