Avastin for Macular Degeneration
Ophthalmologists are prescribing Avastin, a cancer medication, off-label for the wet type of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to MedPage Today. This eye disease is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60. Now, a government report has recommended that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should establish a national payment policy for Avastin for treatment of AMD. The generic name of the drug is bevacizumab.
A study issued Monday by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG) that compared the drug approved by the FDA for AMD, Lucentis, with Avastin. The findings confirmed that the two medications have similar effectiveness in preserving vision. Both are injectable drugs manufactured by Genentech, but MedPage Today reports that ranibizumab injections cost over $1,900 each while bevacizumab costs only $26 per shot. Also, Medicare beneficiaries pay about $400 in coinsurance for each dose of ranibizumab but just $11 in coinsurance for each dose of bevacizumab, the OIG investigators said.
MedPage Today quoted one physician as saying: "I believe that Avastin works as well if not better than Lucentis. Why would I not want to save expenses for my patients, our society, and government by using a product I believe is as effective as the incredibly more expensive alternative? My personal income would have been higher if I had used Lucentis, but I do not believe that is the right thing to do."