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Three Meds for Diabetic Macular Edema Compared

Aflibercept has slight advantage over bevacizumab, ranibizumab, but cost is an issue

THURSDAY, Feb. 19, 2015 (HealthDay News) — New research compared three leading drugs for diabetic macular edema — bevacizumab (Avastin), aflibercept (Eylea), and ranibizumab (Lucentis) — and although aflibercept came out on top, all were effective options. The study was published online Feb. 18 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The new study included 660 people, averaging 61 years of age, with diabetic macular edema. All of the patients had been diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes for an average of 17 years. Patients were randomly assigned to take one of the three drugs and had their vision assessed a year later.

Among patients whose vision was 20/50 or worse at the start of the trial, those who took aflibercept had greater vision improvement than those who took bevacizumab or ranibizumab. However, the researchers stressed that all three drugs offered similar vision improvement in patients whose vision at the start of the study was rated as anywhere from 20/40 to 20/32. The three drugs were also similar in terms of safety.

Ronald Gentile, M.D., is a professor of ophthalmology at the New York Ear and Eye Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York City, and was an investigator on the trial. He told HealthDay that “the importance of this study can’t be overstated. These one-year results highlight the fact that all the drugs studied — Eylea, Avastin, and Lucentis — are potentially effective [treatment] options.” Another expert, not involved in the research, noted cost: “Eylea costs about $1,900 per injection, Lucentis about $1,200, and Avastin costs about $70 for each monthly treatment for diabetic macular edema,” Mark Fromer, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told HealthDay. Currently, “Avastin is used worldwide much more readily than the other drugs because of cost, and in most cases Avastin will accomplish the same goal.”

The study was funded by the U.S. National Eye Institute.

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