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What is Avastin?
Avastin (also called ranibizumab) is an anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) drug. Which tackles the raised levels of VEGF in the eyes
Avastin has an interesting history. It is a drug which was originally developed to treat bowel cancer and was injected in the veins. It is chemically very similar to Lucentis. Whilst Lucentis was being developed, because there was no effective alternative for many eye diseases some doctors started injecting small quantities of Avastin into the eye of affected patients and found that it worked very well for wet AMD and a number of other diseases. By taking small quantities from a vial of Avastin which would normally be used for injection into the vein, individual doses for the eye can be produced at a substantially lower cost than individual doses of Lucentis.
Is the use of Avastin safe?
Using Avastin in this way is called “off license” usage and although it has been compared with Lucentis in large studies and shown to have similar effect it must be used with caution. The benefit in terms of cost does mean that its use is widespread throughout the world although it is not a NICE approved treatment in the UK.
When used to treat wet AMD, similar results can be expected from Avastin as from Lucentis. Over 90% of patients can expect to stabilize their vision. 30-40% of patients can get quite a significant improvement. To achieve these results it is important that monthly review is maintained consistently and treatment guided by the tests done at these visits. Your doctor may in some cases be able to extend your review interval depending on the approach which is thought to be best for your eye. This will be discussed with you at follow-up appointments.
The procedure itself is quick and painless but is done with the greatest of care in a special clean room.
What are the risks?
There are very small risks associated with treatment. Time is required to prepare the eye with anesthetic and antiseptic to minimize pain and reduce risk of infection.
The potential risks include injection related risks and drug related risks. It is common after the procedure to have varying degrees of redness and irritation. This usually settles down within a few days.
Serious potential risks include:
eye infection, bleeding within the eye and retinal detachment are reported in less than 1% of patients.