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Change in policy about Avastin
A DRUG which has been used to treat patients with eye conditions will no longer be available in the local area, following a legal challenge mounted by a pharmaceutical company against the NHS.
The Southampton, Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Portsmouth (SHIP) PCT Cluster has decided to discontinue its policy on the use of drug Avastin for the treatment of Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration, AMD.
The drug is not officially approved for eye conditions, but was being widely used off licence to treat Wet AMD, which is a common cause of loss of vision. It is claimed by company Novartis, which produces drug Lucentis- the approved, more expensive version to Avastin- that the rival drug could put patients’ safety at risk.
Novartis launched a legal challenge earlier this year against the Cluster’s policy to commission the use of both drugs, used in Frimley Park hospital and Southampton General hospital.
At the time, the SHIP PCT Cluster Board announced its intention to fight the legal challenge, stating “the two drugs have similar effectiveness in the management of the condition though Avastin costs much less than Lucentis” in a statement.
But at a public meeting this afternoon, they revealed they have now backed down.
The meeting heard that the PCT had found the policy hard to implement, with most NHS consultant ophthalmologists choosing not to prescribe Avastin under guidance from their Royal College.
Concerns were voiced about whether the legal proceedings would conclude before April 2013, when the PCT relinquishes commissioning power to Clinical Commissing Groups and it was also revealed that new discounts in the cost of Lucentis have since become available.
Previously it was believed that the use of Avastin could save the local NHS around £5m a year.
Professor Jonathan Montgomery, Chairman of the PCT Cluster Board said: “We remain of the view that the policy was lawful, sensible and safe for patients.
“However, in our consideration of the policy today, the Board has concluded that given the discount being offered, it will be possible to reduce significantly the £7.5million spent annually on Lucentis in the SHIP area.”
The Board agreed to revoke its policy and develop new commissioning arrangements.
Chief Executive of the PCT Cluster, Debbie Fleming said patients with Wet AMD would notice no difference to their care as a result of the decision and would continue to receive Lucentis in the same way.
Mrs Eileen Sutton of Oakridge Towers, has Wet AMD and was treated with Avastin in her right eye at Frimley Park hospital. Mrs Sutton, 85, said: “I do think it’s a shame that the drug is no longer available.
“I certainly had no ill effects from the injections. If this means that more money will have to be spent it’s a real shame.”