It was not long ago that there was essentially no effective treatment for wet AMD. Then, in June 2007 a new drug was approved by Health Canada for the treatment of wet AMD. This drug, Lucentis, reported clinical results showing that wet AMD patients who received a monthly injection of Lucentis for two years demonstrated a significant improvement in their visual outcomes. In fact, 40% of patients in the clinical studies experienced a clinically significant sustained improvement of vision – enough to resume driving – and 95% of patients maintained or improved their pre-trial vision.
It is quite gratifying to see that over six years later the promise held out by Lucentis is being fulfilled. There is now hope for many patients with wet AMD that vision loss can be controlled. However, there is still no available cure, and Lucentis does not work for all patients.
It is, therefore, good news for wet AMD patients that there is a new treatment available. Like Lucentis, the new medication, called Eylea, also blocks the function of a molecule called VEGF that causes unnecessary blood vessels to grow in the back of the eye. However, Eylea achieves this through a slightly different mechanism. Clinical studies demonstrated that Eylea was essentially as effective as Lucentis, but didn’t need to be injected as often as Lucentis. This represents good news for people now requiring monthly treatments of Lucentis, and for the families that often have to take them to their doctor’s appointments. Time will tell whether this lower frequency of injection will be maintained under real world conditions.
The other good news about Eylea is that it operates via a different mechanism than Lucentis. The hope is that it may work in cases where Lucentis does not work. Once again, time will tell whether this is the case.
Eylea is marketed in Canada by Bayer Inc., who plans to launch the new medication in Canada in January, 2014. It is not yet approved for reimbursement in any Canadian province.