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Avastin and Lucentis for Macular Degeneration, Which is Better?

Avastin and Lucentis for macular degeneration

It’s been a two-year, head-to-head contest—specifically, the Comparison of AMD Treatments Trials--between two often-prescribed drugs to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Avastin (bevacizumab) and Lucentis (ranibizumab). Now the results are in, so which one is better?

And the winner is…

Both Avastin and Lucentis have been used by physicians to treat macular degeneration, and although the drugs work in the same way, Avastin is used more often. The CATT was the first time Avastin and Lucentis had been compared directly for treatment of AMD, and it showed both drugs to be highly effective in treating this leading cause of vision loss and blindness in older Americans.

In fact, according to Paul A. Sieving, MD, PhD, director of the National Eye Institute, “Therapies for AMD require repeated treatment to prevent vision loss. Results of this clinical trial provide evidence that long-term treatment with either drug results in a robust and lasting improvement in vision.” The study results appear in the May 2012 issue of Ophthalmology

So how should healthcare consumers choose between the two drugs? Both drugs are administered via injection, so patients don’t have a choice in mode of delivery. The authors did note a slight difference in the results associated with when the drugs were administered.

The study compared Avastin and Lucentis using monthly dosing and as-needed dosing. At two years, monthly dosing was associated with slightly better visual acuity than did as-needed dosing, regardless of the drug.

That said, visual acuity was impressive in both groups. Maureen Maguire, PhD, the study’s principal investigator, called the improvement in vision associated with these two drugs “extraordinary,” and explained that “At two years, two-thirds of patients had driving vision (20/40 vision or better). With previous treatments, only 15 percent of patients retained similar visual acuity.”

In the study, as-needed dosing resulted in 10 fewer eye injections over the two-year period, which translated into lower cost and risk compared with monthly injections. As long as the subject of cost has come up, there is a significant price difference between the two drugs.

A closer look at Avastin and Lucentis
Avastin costs approximately $50 per injection, while Lucentis is priced about $2,000 per injection. While Lucentis has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of wet macular degeneration, Avastin has FDA approval for colorectal cancer, but treatment of AMD is a popular off-label use.

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It should be noted that Genentech is the maker of both drugs. The company originally developed Avastin to prevent angiogenesis, which is the growth of blood vessels that enable cancerous tumors to develop and spread. Genentech later developed Lucentis, which is derived from a protein similar to Avastin, specifically for AMD.

Before Lucentis was approved by the FDA in 2006, some ophthalmologists began using low doses of Avastin in their patients with macular degeneration because it was so similar to Lucentis. As more and more doctors witnessed success with the off-label use of Avastin, they kept using it, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Participants in CATT were older (average age, 80), so side effects are always of special concern in an elderly population. Side effects associated with Avastin and Lucentis were similar: a 40% rate in Avastin patients and a 32% rate in those receiving Lucentis.

The study’s authors noted that their study did not allow them to identify if there was an association between any specific side effect and treatment. They did observe that the occurrence of deaths, stroke, and heart attack was low and similar for both drugs.

Age related macular degeneration affects approximately 20 to 25 million people around the world, and occurs in two forms: wet and dry. Wet AMD is the more serious of the two, and it affects 10% to 15% of people with the disease. It is also the form treated in CATT.

Other ways to manage macular degeneration
In addition to drugs, other treatment options for macular degeneration include various nutritional supports. A study from the National Eye Institute in 2009 reported that omega-3 fatty acids added to the diet may help prevent development of the eye disease vision loss by more than 30%.

The National Eye Institute’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) results led its authors to recommend certain nutrients be taken in high doses to reduce the risk of AMD progressing from intermediate dry to advanced or wet disease. Those nutrients include vitamin C (500 mg), vitamin E (400 IU), beta-carotene (15 mg), zinc (80 mg), and copper as cupric oxide (2 mg).

Although there is not yet a cure for macular degeneration, individuals have options for preventive measures and treatment. Results of CATT indicate Avastin and Lucentis provide similar, effective results, although cost issues may be a factor.

National Eye Institute

Image: Wikimedia Commons



My mother can only see a little light in her right and has 20/60 vision in the left.. She has been diagnosed with m. degeneration. She rec'd glasses but they are not helping, what can we do???
I am not a physician, so I suggest you and your mother consult an ophthalmologist and discuss all of her treatment options, including nutrients she can take to support her eye health and the possibility of treatment with Avastin or Lucentis, as well as other treatment alternatives. You can do your own research of options online and prepare a list of those options and questions about each one; bring the list with you to the doctor so you and your mother will be prepared . Good luck to you.
After many months of Avastin injections, it seemed my husbands sight wasn't improving as it once had. He had his 3rd Lucentis injection yesteday and he is stable but still has very limited vision in his right eye. He had central retina vein occlusion in his left eye so no central vision at all. The right eye had retina vein occlusion, NOT central thank heavens. Just praying the Lucentis will allow him some vision to continue at least working around the house with the right eye.
Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope your husband's vision stabilizes. Let us know how he responds to the Lucentis.
I've been receiving avastin injections for BRVO for almost 5 years. Is there a limit to the number of injections I can safely get?
I am not a physician and cannot answer that question. However, I suggest you present your concerns to your healthcare provider and be sure to let him or her know about any side effects you may be experiencing and also to keep all of your doctors updated on any medications, supplements or alternative methods you may be using.
About 2 months since my one avastin injection for macular degeneration,still havzg side effects which my doetor keeps dismissing. They include, first severe pain in the back of my neck, then upper arm pain, lost of stability, dizziness, bouts of high blood pressure up to 197 , nasua, causing a visit to ER for 4 hours, falling twice, lack of stability, cloudiness and daekness that is getting worst. Dr keeps saying my vision is better, and wants another injection, but I see less. Also had unusual skin bump on my leg that after 3 days leaked blood than disappeared on the 4 th day. Also have constant joint pain. Scared to allow the Dr do it again. What now?
Pat: Thank you for your question. I am sorry you are experiencing these side effects. I am not a physician so I cannot offer medical advice. You may want to seek a second opinion. You say you went to the ER; did you tell them you had been given an Avastin injection?