On October 5, 2011, the New York Times published an article regarding recent incidents of vision loss in 21 patients across the country after use of Avastin injections for eye conditions. Avastin is a cancer drug prescribed off-label by eye doctors for the treatment of macular degeneration and other serious eye conditions.
Eye doctors have favored using Avastin injections due to the drug’s cost-effectiveness when compared to other drugs on the market. Avastin is much cheaper than Lucentis, the drug with regulatory approval for treatment of age-related macular degeneration. In light of the recent incidents regarding vision loss after use of Avastin injections, eye doctors are now favoring using the more expensive Lucentis.
Vision loss in the affected patients is the result of an eye infection allegedly caused by microbial contamination when doctors divide the Avastin prescription vial into smaller doses for individual patients. The division of the prescription vial is usually done at a specialized compound pharmacy, but is now being done at doctors’ offices, where conditions are often not sterile.
Although doctors are beginning to favor Lucentis over Avastin, use of Lucentis eye injections also carries a risk of infection for the patient. This drug must also be divided into smaller doses, much like the Avastin prescription vial. The lack of a sterile environment at the doctor’s office presents a higher risk of contamination when dividing the drug. Furthermore, various studies have shown that Avastin and Lucentis actually carry a similar risk of eye infection in the patient.
See the full New York Times article at: