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Genentech’s Lucentis Reaches FDA Approval for Diabetic Macular Edema Treatment

blind person walking down street with caneGenentech’s Lucentis has been successfully used since 2006 for treating a wide range of vision problems, including age-related macular degeneration- the most common type of blindness. As of August 10, this visionary medication has gained FDA approval for treating diabetic macular edema. Lucentis has been previously approved by the FDA twice for other treatments in 2006 and 2010, so just how important is its latest endorsement?

Diabetes and Macular Edema

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that diabetes can increase the risk for serious health conditions, such as heart disease or even death. But many are unaware that diabetes holds the title as the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in adults. With over 25 million Americans suffering from diabetes, Lucentis was given the green light just in time for treating diabetic macular edema.

Patients with diabetes have an incredibly high risk for developing eye problems. In fact compared to the average person, diabetics have a 40% higher chance of developing glaucoma and a 60% higher risk for cataracts. Diabetes often causes irregular blood vessel growth or damage in the eyes which can lead to further problems.

What is Lucentis and How Does it Work?

Lucentis, also known as ranibizumab, is a  vascular endothelial growth factor A class medication which works by preventing harmful blood vessels from growing in the back of the eye. By keeping these blood vessels from obstructing the retina, macular edema can be prevented, and vision is saved.

If the incentive of seeing things more clearly by taking Lucentis wasn’t enough, Lucentis is touted as being much safer than the competing medication, Avastin. Lucentis does come with possible side effects such as increasing pressure in the eye, causing bleeding from the conjunctive tissue in the eye, and even resulting in eye pain. However, studies showed that only 32% of patients taking Lucentis developed symptoms, compared to 40% in patients using Avastin.

The Bottom Line

Lucentis can be a powerfully effective medicine for patients with diabetic macular edema- that is, if the patient can afford it.  This eye treatment is quite costly compared to its counterpart, Avastin, but experts explain that the way Lucentis works is diffferent. Patients who are able to take on the financial costs and physical risks will literally be able to see the difference after being treated with Lucentis.