Avastin, in many areas is the preferred treatment for wet macular degeneration. Avastin’s generic name is bevacizumab. It is the predecessor to Lucentis and both are made by the same company (Genentech/Roche). Avastin is the third intraocular injection and is also anti-VEGF.
Confused? Yes, it is not FDA approved, but is the standard of care for the treatment of macular degneration. There is a difference between FDA approval and standard of care. In short, standard of care is what a prudent doctor would do in the same situation. FDA approval is necessary for a drug to be used in the U.S.
Avastin Fights Cancer and was introduced in 2004 for treatment of colon cancer and lung cancer. It is now approved for the treatment of breast cancer. As the story goes, some patients receiving chemotherapy for their colon cancer noted improvement in their vision. They must have had wet macular degeneration at the same time!
Genentech researchers were aware that anti-VEGF treatments may also be effective for macular degeneration and developed Lucentis. They were successful in gaining FDA approval for Lucentis and the treatment of wet ARMD (macular degeneration).
The Lucentis pricing structure bothered most physicians. Basically, it is very expensive for both docs and patients. Many doctors lost money using Lucentis and the patient responsibility is costly. Lucentis is priced at about $1950 per dose. Avastin is anywhere from $25 – $50 per dose.
The alternative became Avastin.
Avastin is also used “off-label” for the treatment of diabetic macular edema and proliferative diabetic retinopathy. This is not unique to Avastin, but is true for the other anti-VEGF medications; Lucentis and Macugen.
What Does This Mean? Avastin is a great alternative. Its use is well accepted in our community. I believe Avastin is at least as effective as Lucentis. Several studies support this. What is more interesting is that diabetic macular edema, wet macular degeneration and cancer all require VEGF! The common denominator?……………….blood vessels.
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist