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NICE makes u-turn on Lucentis

The diabetic eyesight drug Lucentis could soon be available to thousands of patients in England, Wales and Northern Ireland following a u-turn by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
In 2011, the health watchdog refused to approve ranibizumab (Lucentis) for NHS treatment of diabetic macular oedema (DMO) – a serious complication of long-term diabetes mellitus – on the grounds that it was too expensive.
However, it has now reversed its decision after the manufacturer, Novartis, agreed to reduce the price of the medication (£742.17 per injectio, excluding VAT) to the NHS.
“NICE is pleased to recommend ranibizumab as a treatment option for some people with visual impairment caused by diabetic macular oedema in new draft guidance,” said Professor Carole Longson.
She explained that in November 2011, the watchdog published guidance that “did not recommend the drug as an effective use of NHS resources”. But following the submission of a revised patient access schemen, it conducted a rapid review of the original guidance and now recommends that Lucentis be made available on the NHS.
At least 50,000 people in the UK suffer from diabetic macular oedema, which occurs when prolonged high blood glucose levels cause blood vessels in the retina to leak into the macula, the part of the eye responsible for central vision. The resulting swelling of the macula can distort central vision and lead to severe visual impairmentsight loss.
The main form of treatment for DMO is laser eye therapy, which prevents further deterioration of vision. However, clinical trials of ranibizumab, which is injected into the eye, showed that it can significantly improve vision in patients with this sight-threatening condition.
Lucentis is already available to some diabetic patients in Scotland following the Scottish Medicines Consortium’s (SMC) decision to approve it for treatment of DMO in early December.

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