In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and leak blood and fluid. This causes rapid damage to the macula, the portion of the eye responsible for fine, detailed central vision. Lucentis (ranibizumab) is a drug that closes down these blood vessels by inhibiting VEGF-A, a protein that plays a critical role in the formation of new blood vessels. In clinical trials in patients with wet AMD, it was found to prevent further visual loss in 90 – 95% of patients. Up to a third of patients in the trials also experienced an increase in their vision following treatment – something not seen before in the treatment of AMD.
Lucentis was approved by the United States FDA in June 2006. It is approved by Medsafe in NZ, but is not funded by Pharmac or many health insurers, including Southern Cross.
Currently we mainly use Lucentis in age-related macular degeneration. However, many other diseases in the eye are also treatable with Lucentis, and at Retina Specialists we were involved in an international clinical trial which showed that Lucentis is an effective treatment for diabetic macular oedema.
The medication is delivered by injection into the vitreous jelly which fills the eye. The injections need to be repeated monthly for the first 3 months, following which the frequency may be reduced, although close monitoring of the eye will still be required, and further injections are likely.
The doctors at Retina Specialists are Southern Cross-affiliated providers of intravitreal injections.