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NIHR HTA programme funded trial comparing drugs to treat major cause of blindness could generate annual savings of £84.5 million

HTA news item, 08 May 2012

The first year results from an NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme funded trial, IVAN, were presented at the world's largest vision research conference in Florida, USA, on 6 May. Due to appear soon in the journal Ophthalmology, the results have attracted considerable media attention. These include articles published in the Guardian and on the BBC health news website

The trial has compared two drugs – Lucentis and Avastin - in treating a major cause of loss of vision in the elderly. Wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) leads to the severe loss of sight within two years for 70 per cent of those diagnosed. 610 people with wet AMD participated in the IVAN trial, which is one of the largest ever carried out in the field of eye disease in the UK.

Professor Usha Chakravarthy, the project's lead researcher at Queen's University Belfast, said: "The IVAN results at the end of the first year show that Lucentis and Avastin have similar effectiveness. Regardless of the drug received, or treating monthly or as needed, sight in the affected eye improved by between one and two lines on a standard eye test."

The study also indicates that in the UK, the NHS could save £84.5 million annually, based on treating 17,295 eyes each year, by switching from Lucentis to Avastin, and administering the treatment on an as-needed basis.

Patients received injections of the drug into the affected eye every month for the first three months. Groups were then subdivided to receive either injections at every visit thereafter or only if the specialist decided there was persistent disease. The IVAN project involved a team of scientists and eye specialists from Queen's University Belfast, Bristol, Liverpool, Southampton and Oxford universities, as well as 23 hospitals.

View the project page

More about Wet AMD

Wet AMD is a condition in which abnormal blood vessels develop in the macula of the eye. The macula is the central part of the retina which is responsible for detailed vision. The new blood vessels can be fragile and leak blood and fluid which cause the macula to swell, and damage occurs rapidly. The damage may also cause scarring of the retina. Although loss of central vision can happen quickly, eye care professionals can slow down or stop the progression of wet AMD if it is detected before severe vision loss occurs. With wet AMD, abnormally high levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) are secreted in the eyes. This substance promotes the growth of new abnormal blood vessels. Avastin and Lucentis are both injected into the eye and block the effects of the VEGF.

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The NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC), based at the University of Southampton, manages evaluation research programmes and activities for the NIHR.


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