Lucentis (ranibizumab) has been shown to be more effective in treating diabetic retinopathy than laser eye surgery, new findings report.
This is the latest study to confirm the benefits of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) drugs in treating retinopathy. Currently, laser eye surgery is still the standard care choice among clinicians, but the researchers from the University of Ulm, Germany, hope these findings raise questions about treatment options.
“VEGF inhibitors are a good option to treat proliferative diabetic retinopathy as monotherapy,” said Gabrielle Lang, MD, in an interview with Medscape Medical News. “I think clinicians will be able to use it.”
Lucentis is given in the form of injections either monthly or three times a month. It helps to prevent new blood vessels from growing and helps to hold back the progression of retinal damage. It is available on the NHS as a treatment for diabetic macular edema, which often develops as a result of diabetic retinopathy.
Previous trials have shown Lucentis to have superior clinical effectiveness over laser eye surgery, which is the first line treatment for diabetic macular edema, but surgery can often cause some permanent vision loss.
This new study involved retinopathy patients being divided into three groups. They then either received Lucentis 0.5mg, laser surgery (known as panretinal photocoagulation therapy) or a combination of the two treatments. All groups had similar markers for HbA1c, age, duration of diabetes and visual acuity.
After a two-year follow-up period the best results were in the Lucentis-only group, which also included the lowest number of serious adverse events.
Speaking at the 17th EURENTINA Congress, Lang added that physicians can be reluctant to switch from laser surgery to anti-VEGF drugs, which require patients to return to intravitreal injections indefinitely, which can be more costly, whereas surgery often requires just a single laser session.
Moreover, Lang said that it is not currently clear how long people with diabetic retinopathy would need anti-VEGF injections to keep the complication under control.