Avastin found effective against macular degeneration

The anti-cancer drug Avastin is as effective in fighting macular degeneration as Lucentis, which, however is 40 times more expensive than the cancer fighting medicine, according to results of clinical trials published in the United States.

The study compares Avastin (bevacizumab) to Lucentis (ranibizumab), which both have been developed by US firm Genentech, owned by Swiss laboratory Roche.

During the trials, scientists randomly assigned 1,208 patients with neovascular macular degeneration - a condition that leads to the gradual loss of central vision - to receive injections in the eye of ranibizumab or bevacizumab on either a monthly schedule or as needed with monthly evaluation.

"At one year, bevacizumab and ranibizumab had equivalent effects on visual acuity when administered according to the same schedule," reported the authors of the study, including Doctor Juan Grunwald from the University of Pennsylvania.

"Ranibizumab given as needed with monthly evaluation had effects on vision that were equivalent to those of ranibizumab administered monthly."

However, the costs of the treatments were vastly different.

The average cost in the ranibizumab group per patient was $23,400 compared to $385 per patient in the bevacizumab group, the researchers said.

The study appears in the latest issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.