Thursday, June 19, 2008

Eye on Genentech: Similar drug, 40 times more expensive

Genentech is restricting the use of its cancer drug Avastin, which is also widely used for patients with wet macular degeneration. There is suspicion that Genentech is doing this because Avastin competes directly with its other wet macular degeneration drug called Lucentis. Avastin costs about $50 per dose and Lucentis costs about $2,000 per dose. You can read more about this saga that has drawn the attention of FDA and senate investigators at Jacob Goldstein's WSJ blog.

As an ophthalmologist, I have seen incredible results in patients who are being treated for wet macular degeneration with Lucentis and Avastin.

Most ophthalmologists and retinal specialists seem to think that the two drugs are equivalent, but there are some anecdotal reports that Lucentis may be the preferred initial treatment, and Avastin may work better for follow up treatments, since most of these patients need monthly injections of these drugs into their eyes. performed an online physician survey of ophthalmologists to find out what their preferences are. The December 2007 poll revealed that doctors preferred Avastin over Lucentis by a 2 to 1 margin. 84% believed that Avastin and Lucentis were equivalent medications, and 94% of ophthalmologists said that Genentech should not place any restrictions on the sale or distribution of Avastin to ophthalmologists or pharmacies that prepare Avastin for use by ophthalmologists.

Click here to see survey results.

We’re all awaiting the results of the NIH study to find out what’s best for our patients.

Robert Cykiert, M.D.

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