Roche survey disputes earlier study’s claims of equal effectiveness of Avastin and Lucentis in treating AMD

Roche survey disputes earlier study’s claims of equal effectiveness of Avastin and Lucentis in treating AMDThe debate over the relative advantages of two Roche-developed drugs, Avastin and Lucentis, for eye disorders is likely to intensify --- with a company-backed survey indicating that Avastin has a greater risk of side effects vis-à-vis the more expensive Lucentis!

Even though both the drugs are developed by Roche, the notably higher price-tag of eye drug Lucentis has triggered widespread “off label” use of cancer drug Avastin by doctors. Though the use of Avastin for eye problems is legal, it is not approved by regulators as a treatment for the eye condition wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The new report about the greater side effects of Avastin comes close on the heels of – as well as contradicts - the last-week publication of a closely watched study sponsored by the US government-funded National Eye Institute. That study had come to the conclusion that the effectiveness of Avastin - known generically as bevacizumab – was at par with the effective of Lucentis (ranibizumab).

According to the earlier study’s lead author Daniel Martin, from the Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute in Ohio, “Lucentis and Avastin were equivalent — in fact, virtually identical for visual acuity at all time points — when administered in the same dosing regimen.”

However, going by the initial findings of the new Roche-supported study – which was funded by Roche’s US arm Genentech -, an analysis of 78,000 Medicare patients has revealed that AMD patients administered Avastin showed a 57 percent higher chance of stroke and an 11 percent greater risk of death, as compared to those taking Lucentis!