Concerns that eye injections of the drug Avastin increase the risk of a potentially blinding eye infection may be unfounded, a new study finds.
Researchers analyzed insurance claims data from across the United States to compare the use of Avastin (bevacizumab) to treat retinal diseases with a much more expensive drug called Lucentis (ranibizumab).
The study was conducted in response to reports of Avastin-related eye infections that led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to propose tight restrictions on the use of the drug for eye conditions.
But the findings showed that patients treated with Avastin do not have a higher risk of an eye infection called endophthalmitis than those treated with Lucentis, the study authors said.
The researchers looked at more than 296,000 injections of Avastin and more than 87,000 injections of Lucentis. They found the rates of the serious eye infection were 0.017 percent for Avastin and 0.025 percent for Lucentis.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health funded the study, which was published Aug. 13 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.
“Our analysis of a national data set shows that the risk for endophthalmitis is no higher with Avastin and hints that there may actually be a lower endophthalmitis risk compared to Lucentis, so the proposed FDA restrictions for Avastin might have the unintended consequence of increasing the infection risk for patients,” study senior author Dr. Brian VanderBeek, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a university news release.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology opposes the proposed new FDA rules.
“The findings from our study support their stance,” VanderBeek said.
Avastin costs approximately $50 per injection, while Lucentis can cost as much as $2,000 per treatment, the researchers noted.
Avastin is used to treat a variety of cancers. It’s also used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration, a progressive disease of the eye that causes loss of the ability to see straight ahead.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about endophthalmitis.