On September 1, 2011, the New York Times published an article reporting that five patients at the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs medical center were blinded after receiving Avastin eye injection treatment. Avastin is a cancer drug that is also used to treat the wet form of age-related macular degeneration. This drug costs approximately $50 per injection. Avastin is much cheaper than similar drugs on the market, such as Lucentis, which can cost approximately $2,000 per injection.
To be used as an eye treatment injection, an Avastin vial must be divided into smaller doses that are each placed into a syringe. However, the risk of bacterial contamination increases with this type of handling of the drug. The F.D.A. recently issued an alert regarding 12 Miami patients who experienced eye infections after receiving Avastin injections. Four patients in Nashville have also suffered similar infections from contaminated doses of Avastin.
In light of these recent incidents of eye infection after use of Avastin, doctors may begin using the more costly Lucentis drug for treatment of patients with macular degeneration. However, Lucentis may end up costing patients much more money than Avastin did. Those who stand behind the use of Avastin state that two million injections have been given in the past six years with few adverse incidents.
The individual doses of Avastin are normally prepared at compounding pharmacies, over which the F.D.A. has little oversight. These recent cases of Avastin eye infections have also served to raise questions regarding the operation of compounding pharmacies.
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