The results of this National Eye Institute study were released just a week ago. The study, the “Comparison of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment Trials (CATT)” compared the two drugs head-to-head in a year long study involving about 1200 patients.
The study is significant because Lucentis and Avastin are manufactured by the same company, Genetech. Lucentis is FDA approved for the treatment of wet macular degeneration, yet Avastin is the standard of care.
Lucentis costs 40-50 times more than Avastin.
Simply put, most retina specialists across the United States have been using the cheaper alternative as we have suspected that the two are equally as effective in the treatment of the disease, but at a fraction of the cost.
The CATT report compared the two injections in a variety of dosing schedules; every four weeks vs. “as needed.” The results indicate the two drugs are equally effective whether given regularly or “as needed.”
The major difference between the two drugs is cost. Lucentis costs $2000 whereas Avastin is about $50 or less. Avastin is not sold to ophthalmologists directly by Genetech. Compounding pharmacies purchase the drug, a chemotherapy agent, and break it up into smaller injectable portions for our use.
Side effects of the two drugs were found to be similar. Both seem to be very safe after one year of study. The patients will be followed for more long-term safety data.
What Does This Mean?
This may be the end to the controversy between Avastin vs. Lucentis. Finally, there is conclusive evidence confirming what many of us have been suspecting…the cheaper drug is just as good as the more expensive drug!
The economic impact of this study will be far reaching.
Better still, the study showed that dosing “as needed” may be just as good a therapy as regimented regular dosing every 4-6 weeks.