All patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) will get sight-saving drugs on the NHS, following a U-turn by the government's clinical watchdog.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has today agreed it will fund the use of ranibizumab (Lucentis) for the treatment of AMD.
This reverses their controversial decision of last summer that patients should go blind in one eye before qualifying for the treatment.
Under this new guidance the NHS will cover the cost of ranibizumab for the first 14 injections in each eye being treated. If further injections are needed, the manufacturer, Novartis, will cover the cost.
However NICE did not recommend pegaptanib (Macugen) for the treatment of wet AMD.
Andrew Dillon, NICE Chief Executive, said: ‘Lucentis is an expensive drug, costing more than £10,000 for each eye treated. But that cost needs to be balanced against the likely cost savings. AMD results in reduced quality of life and increased risks of illness, particularly in relation to accidents – especially falls – and psychological ill-health.’
The drug is already available in Scotland, with Wales and Northern Ireland saying this will fund it. This new guidance means that all patients suitable for the treatment will have the same access to it, irrespective of where they live.