A new study funded by the U.S. National Eye Institute indicates that new drugs, Avastin (bevacizumab) and Lucentis (ranibizumab), can help older people with age-related macular degeneration to continue to do daily activities like reading and driving.
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among older Americans. One decade ago, the best treatment for AMD was photodynamic therapy, which used IV drugs and laser treatment to seal off leaking blood vessels in the eye that caused AMD. Unfortunately, less than 15 percent of patients who chose photodynamic therapy alone had 20/40 vision. Up to 40 percent declined to 20/200. To keep your driver’s license in most states, you must have vision of at least 20/50 in one eye.
Maureen Maguire, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, led the study which included 650 patients with the form of AMD called wet AMD. This is characterized by abnormal blood vessels, which grow under the retina, that leak fluid. Avastin and Lucentis are both classified as anti-VEGF drugs. VEGF is a protein that causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the eyes of patients with AMD. To reverse this process, Avastin or Lucentis are injected directly into the eye.
After five years of treatment with Avastin or Lucentis, 50 percent of the participants had 20/40 vision or better. Twenty-five percent of the participants had 20/200 vision after five years, and the remainder of the participants were between 20/40 and 20/200.
Maguire is encouraged by the results of the study, but says that more research needs to be done. She stated, “Although anti-VEGF treatment has greatly improved the prognosis for patients overall, we still need to find ways to avoid poor vision in these patients and to decrease the burden of ongoing treatment” (Source: US News and World Report).