New FDA-Approved Wet AMD Treatment Requires Fewer Eye Injections

November 21, 2011
lab equipmentThe biopharmaceutical company Regeneron has received FDA approval for Eylea™, its treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) that is as effective as currently prescribed wet AMD therapies such as Lucentis® but requires less-frequent ocular injections.

“Fewer injections with Eylea should translate to reduced risk of injection-related discomfort and complications for patients while not sacrificing effectiveness.” says Stephen Rose, Ph.D., chief research officer, Foundation Fighting Blindness.

In head-to head clinical studies, injections of Eylea every two months were as effective as monthly injections of Lucentis, which was approved in 2006 by the FDA for treating wet AMD.

Regeneron says that doctors should administer Eylea every four weeks for the first 12 weeks and then once every eight weeks thereafter. Lucentis® is prescribed monthly, though some doctors move to less-frequent, as-needed dosing regimens a few months after treatment has started.

For several years, eye doctors have also prescribed Avastin, a drug developed for treating certain cancers, as a low-cost, off-label alternative to Lucentis. In recent months, isolated cases of serious eye infections have been linked to contaminated doses of Avastin repackaged for wet AMD treatment, though investigations into the source and cause of the contaminations have not been completed.

Eylea costs $1,850 per treatment. Doctors can order the drug starting November 21, 2011. Lucentis costs $2,000 per treatment. Avastin treatments are approximately $50.

Eylea, Lucentis and Avastin all work by blocking vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, a protein that causes the proliferation of leaky, vision-robbing blood vessels underneath the retina in people with wet AMD. Regeneron says that Eylea blocks VEGF for a longer time than Lucentis, and also blocks placental growth factor, or PIGF, another protein that leads to the growth of unhealthy blood vessels.

Dr. Rose recommends that people with wet AMD consult their doctors to choose the treatment and dosing regimen that’s best for them. He adds, “We need to keep in mind that both Lucentis and Avastin have established track records. Also, the first year of the Comparison of Age-Related Treatment Trials showed that an as-needed dosing regimen for Lucentis was as effective as monthly, once blood vessel growth under the patient’s retina was cleared up. It’s important that patients discuss all the alternatives with their physicians to determine the best course of action.”