On August 30, 2011, the New York Times published an article reporting that sixteen people in Tennessee and Florida suffered severe eye infections and blindness after receiving treatment with Avastin eye injections. Avastin is a low-cost drug used by some eye doctors to treat patients with the wet form of age-related macular degeneration, a condition that can lead to vision loss. Although only approved for cancer treatment, some eye doctors use Avastin off-label as an inexpensive alternative to Lucentis, a costly drug approved for treatment of macular degeneration.
Prescribed in a single vial for cancer treatment, Avastin must be divided into smaller doses for use in eye injection treatments. This process increases the risk of bacterial contamination, which allegedly caused the eye infections in the Tennessee and Florida patients. According to a recent F.D.A. alert, twelve patients in Miami have also suffered eye infections as a result of using Avastin.
Numerous patients have filed lawsuits against pharmacies responsible for repackaging the Avastin drug into smaller doses for use in eye injections. The F.D.A. has also taken steps against these pharmacies, recalling Avastin-filled syringes from Chronoscript, a Miami area pharmacy.
Genentech, the manufacturer of Avastin and Lucentis, states that Avastin was never approved for use in the eye, and that it has cautioned against using the drug for this type of treatment. Supporters of the continued use of Avastin in the treatment of macular degeneration blame the rise in bacterial contamination on the pharmacies that repackage the drug. A recent study showed that Avastin and Lucentis exhibit similar levels of preserving or improving vision in patients.
See the full New York Times article at: