Charity demands access to sight saving drugIt should be made available to all UK patients

12 June 2007

 

A closeup of a woman's eye.

A leading charity for the blind has demanded that a sight-saving drug be made available to patients across the UK after it was approved for use in Scotland only.

Lucentis is used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a progressive eye disorder affecting thousands in Britain.

Patients in Scotland are to be given the treatment on the NHS following a ruling by the Scottish Medicines Consortium yesterday.

But sufferers in England and Wales must wait until later this year to see if the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will officially pass the drug.

Eye disorder

The SMC decision follows the approval in August last year of a second drug, Macugen, used to treat wet AMD.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) has called on health bosses in England and Wales to provide both the treatments.

Steve Winyard of the RNIB said: ‘The SMC's decision is fantastic news for patients in Scotland.

‘But wet AMD patients in other parts of the UK face an uphill struggle to get hold of the treatments. In England, as many as 80 per cent of primary care trusts refuse to fund them.’

‘Treatable condition’

Wet AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK and affects a quarter of a million people, according to the RNIB.

The condition affects the central part of the retina called the macula and can lead to blindness in as little as three months.

Mr Winyard added: ‘In the past week we have also heard that Australia has advised its health authorities to make these treatments available to patients.

‘We have a real chance to turn wet AMD, which devastates so many lives, into a largely treatable condition - but only if NICE follows the examples of the SMC and Australia and approves these sight-saving treatments as quickly as possible.’

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