The first drug shown to significantly improve the vision of patients who suffer from a disease that is the major cause of blindness among the elderly has won federal approval.
The drug, called Lucentis, treats the wet form of age-related macular degeneration, a disorder in which blood vessels behind the retina leak blood and fluid, worsening vision and often causing blindness. An estimated 90% of the 1.4 million Americans who have lost their eyesight because of the disorder have the wet form.
Lucentis, made by Genentech Inc., was approved June 30. The drug inhibits the growth of blood vessels when injected into the eye. Other Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments can arrest progression of the disease, which can lead to blindness in just weeks or months, but none has been shown to significantly reverse deteriorating vision.
Lucentis will cost $1,950 per injection, or more than 100 times as much as Avastin, a cancer drug increasingly used to treat macular degeneration for as little as $17 a dose.