Health watchdog rejects use of eye drug Lucentis for diabetics

Thu, 01 Dec 2011
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has rejected the use of eye drug ranibizumab, sold under the trade name of Lucentis, by the NHS in England and Wales. It claimed that the drug should not be made available because it is too expensive for treating patients with diabetic macular oedema (DMO), a condition that affects over 50,000 people in the UK.

Lucentis injections are known to improve vision, and be better than laser treatment, which only prevents vision from further deterioration, and the drug is already recommended to the NHS for a different eye complaint.

However, national charities such as Diabetes UK, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) have said they will fight against the decision. They are lobbying the government to quickly agree a patient access scheme to reduce the cost of the drug to the NHS for combating DMO, which can lead to sight loss due to fluid leaking from the small blood vessels in the eye.

Simon O'Neill, who is director at Diabetes UK, commented "we are disappointed that NICE has turned down our appeal, as we believe this treatment is vital to prevent people from needlessly losing their sight."

He added "Diabetic retinopathy is the leading causes of blindness in people of working age in the UK, and the human impact of this stretches far beyond the financial costs.
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