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Health ministers may call for appraisal of unlicensed cancer drug for eye treatment

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d62 (Published 06 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d62
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

Health ministers in England are considering calling for a full technical appraisal of a cancer drug to treat eye conditions, even though it is unlicensed for the indication.

Bevacizumab (Avastin) has been widely used in the US and the UK to treat the wet form of age related macular degeneration, despite its lack of a licence, because it is much cheaper than the licensed product ranibizumab (Lucentis). Both were originally developed by Genentech, part of Roche, and ranibizumab has been approved for NHS use by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Both share a common mode of action, inhibiting blood vessel growth.

Bevacizumab is around 15 times cheaper than ranibizumab, if it is bought as a cancer drug and then split into many separate doses …

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