The NHS is funding a clinical trial comparing colon cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab) with the smaller, related drug Lucentis (ranibizumab) in age-related macular degeneration, according to The Guardian. Genentech, which manufactures both, is not prepared to carry out the trials itself.
Some primary care trusts are already paying for Avastin to treat AMD. Lucentis is a fragment of Avastin, and ophthalmic surgeons are increasingly using the larger drug off-label to treat AMD because it is so much cheaper – using one phial of Avastin in many patients could reduce the cost to as little as £17 per injection, compared with an estimated £1000 per injection for Lucentis.
The high cost of new drugs has led to the banning or rationing of some medicines in the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).