People with diabetic macular oedema won’t get vision-saving drug on NHS

Diabetic macular oedema is a condition that affects at least 50,000 people in the UK. It causes fluid to leak from they eye’s small blood vessels and then accumulate in what’s known as the macular area (the central part of the retina at the rear of the eye), and can severely impair vision.

A drug known as ranibizumab (branded as Lucentis) can improve sufferers’ vision when injected into the eye, and ultimately prevent them from going blind.

But the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has decided that the drug is too expensive to offer on the NHS in England and Wales, even though they already recommend Lucentis to the NHS for another condition known as wet age-related macular degeneration.

Lucentis is already recommended to the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for another condition known as wet age-related macular degeneration. But NICE has concluded that it’s too expensive to provide to people suffering from diabetic macular oedema.

Laser surgery is the usual treatment for diabetic macular oedema on the NHS, but, unlike Lucentis, this doesn’t improve vision – it merely stops further deterioration.

Lucentis currently costs 742.17 per injection, but four UK diabetes charities are lobbying the Government to push for a Patient Access Scheme with Novartis, the company that manufactures the drug, as quickly as possible, so the cost to the NHS can be brought down.

Steve Winyard from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) said he hoped an agreement could be reached “so that patients with diabetic macular oedema are not left to needlessly lose their sight.”

A statement from Novartis indicated the company would keep working with NICE and the Department of Health to “ensure appropriate patients are able to receive this very important treatment.”

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