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Public outcry forces Nice to re-evaluate eye disease drugs.

A record-breaking response from the public has forced a rethink of NHS guidelines on sight-saving drugs.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will carry out further "economic modelling" on draft guidance following a public outcry over treatment for sufferers of wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD).

A meeting schedule for today on the guidance, which relates to the drugs Lucentis (ranibizumab) and Macugen (pegaptanib), has been postponed.

During a period of consultation, groups including the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, submitted reports in favour of the drugs, known as anti-VEGF medicines.

A spokesman for Nice confirmed it had received its largest ever response to draft guidance.

It received more than 13,000 comments in total - more than 3,000 letters, emails and phone calls and around 10,000 signed leaflets issued by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

The guidance, issued in June, recommended that Macugen should not be used at all on the NHS and only recommended Lucentis for about one in five patients with wet AMD.

Those suffers must have a particular type called predominantly classic subfoveal choroidal neovascularisation (CNV), it said.

Nice recommended Lucentis for use only when both eyes were affected, and only for use in the better-seeing eye.

The decision sparked outrage among campaigners.

Yesterday, a statement from Nice said further economic modelling will now be carried out.

It added: "Final guidance will not be published in December as previously planned."

Wet AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK, and affects around a quarter of a million people.

There are 26,000 new cases each year.

Primary care trusts have been formulating their own policies for treating patients until final guidance from Nice is issued.

The RNIB yesterday accused Nice of "massive incompetence" for adding further delays to a process it hopes will result in the drugs being granted.

It said the review could lead to 10,000 people in the UK going blind unnecessarily in the next six months - its estimate of how long it will take to issue final guidance.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 9, 2007
Words:350
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