Novartis is set to once again expand its market for Lucentis in England and Wales after the drug was given its third recommendation for NHS use to treat an eye condition.
The National institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) today issued final guidance saying Lucentis (ranibizumab) was a cost-effective use of NHS resources to treat patients with visual impairment due to macular oedema caused by a blockage in a vein in the retina of a patient's eye.
This adds to a recommendation in February 2013 for the use of Lucentis to treat diabetes-related macular oedema and a 2008 recommendation to treat age-related macular degeneration.
However, as with Lucentis' previous NICE recommendations, Novartis must provide the medicine at a discount through a patient access scheme.
“This announcement from NICE is an important and long awaited milestone in the management of this common eye disease,” said the pharma company in a statement.
“Now that the guidance is final, Novartis looks forward to working with the NHS to ensure that ophthalmology services are adequately supported and that eligible patients can access treatment with ranibizumab.”
The latest NICE guidance covers the use of Lucentis in macular oedema caused by both central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) and branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO), although Lucentis should only be used as a treatment in the latter situation if standard treatment with a laser to seal blood vessels is ineffective or unsuitable.
Novartis has previously said that 17,000 people each year in the UK are diagnosed with visual impairment due to macular oedema secondary to either CRVO or BRVO.
The condition can lead to blurred vision or sensitivity to light, while symptoms can come on suddenly. If left untreated, macular oedema also can cause blindness, according to Professor Carole Longson, director of NICE's Health Technology Evaluation Centre.
“NICE is, therefore, pleased to recommend ranibizumab in people with CRVO and some people with BRVO, following the submission of a patient access scheme, which makes the treatment more cost effective,” she said.