-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Use of the drugs
bevacizumab (Avastin) and ranibizumab (Lucentis) to treat
age-related macular degeneration (AMD) doesn't appear to increase
the risk of cardiovascular problems or death, a new study
AMD is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss among
older Americans. About 12 percent of cases are neovascular ("wet")
AMD, which occurs when new blood vessels form in the eyes.
Neovascular disease accounts for more than 80 percent of cases of
severe vision loss in people with AMD.
Bevacizumab is a chemotherapy drug that's used off-label to
treat neovascular AMD. Ranibizumab is a U.S. Food and Drug
Administration-approved treatment for the condition. Both drugs,
which are injected into the eye and block blood vessel growth, are
newer treatments for the disorder.
Other approved treatments for AMD are photodynamic (laser)
therapy and eye injections of pegaptanib octasodium (Macugen),
which blocks abnormal blood vessel growth.
When used to treat cancer, bevacizumab is associated with an
increased risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attack or
stroke. But when the drug is used to treat AMD, it's administered
at a dose 150 times lower than when it's used to treat cancer,
according to background information in the study, which appears in
the October issue of the journal
Archives of Ophthalmology.
"Despite the regulatory approval of ranibizumab, off-label use of bevacizumab continues, likely because of the cost difference ($1,950 per dose of ranibizumab versus $30 per dose of bevacizumab). The relative safety of the therapies is unknown," study author Lesley Curtis and colleagues at Duke University School of Medicine wrote in a news release from the journal's publisher.
For this study, the researchers analyzed the medical records of
146,942 Medicare patients treated for AMD in 2005-2006. Patients
who received bevacizumab did not have an increased risk of death or
heart attack compared to patients who received other treatments.
Patients who received ranibizumab were less likely to die or have a
heart attack than those who received photodynamic therapy, and less
likely to have a heart attack than those who received
"In conclusion, we found no evidence of increased risks of mortality, myocardial infarction, bleeding or stroke among Medicare beneficiaries who received intravitreous ranibizumab or bevacizumab for neovascular age-related macular degeneration," Curtis and colleagues wrote.
The study was supported by a research agreement between OSI
Eyetech and Duke University.
The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about
age-related macular degeneration.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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