Avastin Again Proves Equal to Lucentis in NIH Study

May 1, 2012

The National Eye Institute reported yesterday that Avastin (bevacizumab) and Lucentis (ranibizumab injection) proved equal after two years in treating age-related macular degeneration. Off-label Avastin is only $50 for a monthly shot, a tiny fraction of Lucentis’ on-label cost.

The two drugs, both produced by Genentech, had never been compared head-to-head until the NIH-funded Comparison of AMD Treatments Trials (CATT). The first year’s results, published a year ago in the New England Journal of Medicine, also showed the two drugs were comparable. “Patients and clinicians now have valuable information to base treatment decisions,” said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NEI.

The trial also found that monthly dosing with either drug was superior to “as needed” dosing, which resulted in ten fewer treatments over the two-year period. “Both drugs were highly effective regardless of the approach to dosing.  There was slightly less vision gain with as-needed treatment.  Patients seeking the small extra advantage of monthly treatment need to be mindful of the additional burden, risks, and costs of monthly injections,” said Daniel F. Martin, M.D., study chair for CATT and chairman of the Cole Eye Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

The median age of patients in CATT was over 80 years. Serious adverse events occurred in 40 percent of patients taking Avastin and 32 percent of patients taking Lucentis. “Although Avastin had a higher rate of SAEs, they were distributed across many different conditions, most of which were not associated with Avastin when evaluated in cancer clinical trials, in which the drug was administered at 500 times the dose used for AMD,” the NEI noted in its press release. Moreover, “fewer doses were associated with a higher rate of SAEs, which is not a typical dose-response relationship.”

The number of deaths, heart attacks, and strokes were low and similar for both drugs during the study.

The results from either drug were deemed “extraordinary.”  At two-years, two-thirds of patients had driving vision (20/40 vision or better) compared to just 15 percent retaining visual acuity with previous treatments.

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One Response to Avastin Again Proves Equal to Lucentis in NIH Study

  1. Byard Pidgeon on May 7, 2012 at 9:57 am

    How desperate must one be, to accept treatment with drugs that carry a 32%-40% risk of serious adverse effects? Is this the best we can do?

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