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U-turn on eye drug will save the sight of thousands

Thousands of people will be saved from going blind following a U-turn by the government's drug advisory body, which will allow them to get an expensive new treatment on the NHS NHS
abbr.
National Health Service


NHS (in Britain) National Health Service
.

The National Institute for Healthcare and Clinical Excellence (Nice) will today row back on its controversial draft advice in June that stated people must be allowed to go blind in one eye before they can have injections of Lucentis - a drug for wet age-related macular degeneration Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)
Degeneration of the macula (the central part of the retina where the rods and cones are most dense) that leads to loss of central vision in people over 60.
 (AMD (Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., Sunnyvale, CA, www.amd.com) A major manufacturer of semiconductor devices including x86-compatible CPUs, embedded processors, flash memories, programmable logic devices and networking chips. ). Nice had also said that only people with certain types of lesions caused by the disease should get the drug, which would limit availability to 20% of patients.

Nice took the stand because of the cost of Lucentis, which is about £760 an injection. A full course for one eye could have cost £18,300. But the outcry from doctors and patient groups - Nice received 13,000 letters of protest - has led to a rethink re·think  
tr. & intr.v. re·thought , re·think·ing, re·thinks
To reconsider (something) or to involve oneself in reconsideration.



re
 and the manufacturer, Novartis, has offered a compromise deal on the cost.

"We are delighted by the new Nice guidelines guidelines,
n.pl a set of standards, criteria, or specifications to be used or followed in the performance of certain tasks.
, which will have a wonderful outcome for about 26,000 new wet AMD patients a year," said Tom Bremridge, the chief executive of the Macular macular adjective Related to 1. A macule 2. The macula  Disease Society. "The drug has a beneficial effect on 90% of patients. However the good news is tinged with bitterness that it has taken such an effort of persuasion PERSUASION. The act of influencing by expostulation or request. While the persuasion is confined within those limits which leave the mind free, it may be used to induce another to make his will, or even to make it in his own favor; but if such persuasion should so far operate on the mind  by all the interested parties to shift Nice from a position that defied common sense."

The Royal National Institute for the Blind was also pleased. "Nice has given thousands of people the best Christmas present they could wish for - hope that their sight might be saved," said the head of campaigns, Steve Winyard.

Novartis has offered to cover the costs of patients who require more than 14 injections of Lucentis. Patients will normally have three and then will be assessed to see whether they need more.

"Fourteen injections should result in stable vision for most patients and improved vision for around a quarter of patients," said Andrew Dillon, the chief executive of Nice.

The NHS is currently funding an unprecedented trial comparing Lucentis with a second drug, Avastin, which is similar but licensed only for bowel cancer. Split into tiny doses, it is a fraction of the cost. If Avastin proves to be equally beneficial, the NHS may look for ways to use Avastin instead of Lucentis.

Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels Blood vessels

Tubular channels for blood transport, of which there are three principal types: arteries, capillaries, and veins. Only the larger arteries and veins in the body bear distinct names.
 growing behind the retina leak blood and fluid, raising the macula from its normal place in the back of the eye.
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Author:guardian.co.uk
Publication:guardian.co.uk
Date:Dec 14, 2007
Words:423
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