Eye condition drug approved for Scots patients

Lucentis can be used to treat branch retinal vein occlusion. Picture: PA
Lucentis can be used to treat branch retinal vein occlusion. Picture: PA
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A DRUG which can be used to help treat people suffering from a eye condition which can cause blindness within hours, was approved for use by patients in Scotland yesterday.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) gave the go-ahead for Lucentis to be prescribed for around 2,400 people in Scotland who suffer from branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO) resulting from a blockage to the central retinal vein or one of its branches.

Lucentis, containing the drug ranibizumab, is administered as an injection into the eye.

The SMC had previously accepted the drug for restricted use in patients with a similar condition known as macular oedema secondary to central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) in November 2011.

Yesterday a spokesman for the SMC said it had reached its decision on drug company Novartis’s resubmisson after an economic analysis compared ranibizumab with another medicine given as an intravitreal implant and laser therapy.

Last night Dr Peter Cackett, consultant ophthalmologist at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, Edinburgh, said he was pleased to have the new drug in his “armoury of treatments”

“Retinal vein occlusion, can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life and independence as it affects the ability to carry out some of the everyday tasks which many of us take for granted.

“Today’s announcement by the SMC that ranibizumab will be available to people in Scotland with BRVO is very good news.

“In Scotland we have been able to treat people with CRVO for some time with ranibizumab, but until now those with BRVO were still unable to access this important treatment, which can lead to rapid and significant gains in vision.”

Last December diabetics north of the border became the first patients in the UK to be offered Lucentis to help prevent blindness for the condition diabetic macula oedema.

A spokesperson for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Scotland, said: “We are delighted that Scotland has again taken a lead in making sight loss treatments fully available on the NHS for people here.

“Sight loss can have a devastating impact on people’s lives, affecting their independence and their livelihoods, so any treatment that can alleviate the effects is greatly welcome. We have an ageing population and that means all kinds of sight loss will become more common. That’s why it is essential we take all the steps we can now to try and contain this increase.”