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PCTs “allowing doctors to use unlicensed eye drugs”

31 July 2007

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Primary care trusts in some areas are allowing doctors to treat patients suffering from an eye condition with an unlicensed drug, reports claim.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has only approved Avastin to treat bowel cancer in Britain, but the drug is widely used to help wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in the US.

It is chemically similar to Lucentis, which is licensed to treat AMD over here, but is vastly more expensive.

Lucentis can help prevent blindness, but because it costs so much NICE has ruled that it can only be used in the worst 20% of cases, the Guardian said.

The paper now claims PCTs in the Greater Manchester area have given doctors the green light to give eye patients Avastin on the NHS.

But a Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Some doctors have reported promising results from using Avastin on an off-licence basis for the treatment of macular degeneration, but NICE can only appraise a drug that has been subject to clinical trials and is licensed for the treatment of the condition in question.

“However, if a patient is willing to be prescribed a drug off-label, it is available on the clinician’s judgment and subject to funding by the PCT.”

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