- Cochrane analysts and clinical researchers reviewed large volumes of efficacy and safety data with the goal of determining if Novartis' Lucentis (ranibizumab) is more effective than Roche's Avastin (becavizumab) for treatment of age-related macular degeneration.
- Many physicians have been using Avastin off label to treat wet AMD since it has shown to be just as effective as Lucentis, but less expensive. The new meta-analysis of clinical trial studies finds that assumption to be true.
- Lucentis and Avastin are anti-VEGF drugs that have a similar safety profile with respect to risk of heart attack and stroke.
Both Novartis and Roche have a financial interest in Lucentis since they market the drug together, and the companies share the position that Avastin should not be used off patent to treat wet AMD. Not only does Roche refuse to test Lucentis and Avastin head to head -- it has previously sued the National Health Services in the UK to stop use of Avastin for treatment of wet AMD.
This unwillingness to examine data led the UK and the U.S. governments to fund the head-to-head studies, and the results confirm what many have known for a long time -- the treatments are similar in terms of outcomes.
The major difference is cost. According to analysts, in the U.S., switching to Avastin to treat wet AMD could save up to $18 billion over a 10-year period. Based on the latest independent review of the two anti-VEGF treatments, many clinicians will continue to use Avastin to treat wet AMD-- and there will be even more pressure on Novartis to bring down prices.