NICE confirms approval of Lucentis for pathological short sight

Lucentis resized NICE’s Final Appraisal Determination has confirmed its recommendation of Lucentis (ranibizumab) as a therapy for visual impairment caused by pathological myopia.

The Novartis drug, an anti-VEGF biological therapy, is the only licensed treatment able to improve sight in people with this condition.

The recommendation joins NICE recommendations for the same drug as a treatment for visual impairment due to retinal vein occlusion, diabetic retinopathy and wet AMD.

People with severe myopia can develop leaky blood vessels in the retina (myopic CNV), which causes blindness in 90% of cases within five years. An estimated 2,000 people in the UK develop myopic CNV each year.

The only available licensed treatment for myopic CNV is Visudyne (verteporfin photodynamic therapy or vPDT), which can stabilise but not improve vision. This therapy is not widely used in the NHS because of its limited benefit.

The approval was based on the RADIANCE clinical trial, where Lucentis showed an improvement in visual acuity of 15 letters or more in 40% of patients with myopic CNV, compared to only 15% of patients treated with vPDT.

Lucentis is now approved by NICE and the SMC to treat retinal damage arising from four eye diseases. In each case it inhibits the production by damaged cells of a growth factor that accelerates the damage.

By slowing down the underlying cellular mechanism of sight loss, Lucentis allows some recovery through natural regeneration. It is injected according to patient need, usually only two or three times per patient.

The eye drug was co-developed by Genentech and Novartis, with Genentech holding commercial rights to it in the US and Novartis in the rest of the world.

Mr Adnan Tufail, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said: “The decision by NICE to recommend ranibizumab for the treatment of myopic CNV is great news for people with this condition.

“Myopic CNV usually affects people under the age of 50, who are likely to be working and have families, so the loss of vision can have an enormous impact. Being able to offer patients access to ranibizumab will make a significant difference to the treatment outcomes we can achieve.

“As the clinical trials have shown, ranibizumab can restore vision rapidly in some patients, and importantly, with just a few injections.”