Official appraisal of Avastin needed
Responding to allegations today of a drug firm trying to block access for the drug Avastin to be used to treat macular degeneration, the Macular Society explains why an official appraisal of the drug is badly needed:
The Society understands why the NHS is interested in Avastin as a treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as the licensed drugs, Lucentis and Eyelea, are very expensive. However, because Avastin is not licensed for use in the eye this problem raises a number of safety and legal issues.
Drug licensing exists for the protection of patients and should be disregarded in only the most exceptional circumstances. Patients have a right to safe and effective medicines and to be confident in the medicines they are given and doctors should not be pressurised into prescribing unlicensed drugs just because they are cheaper.
In order to protect patients and doctors the Macular Society has repeatedly asked the Government over recent years to initiate a NICE appraisal of Avastin for use in macular diseases. The Society believes NICE is able to do such an appraisal but should be assisted by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). If the appraisal concludes that it is in the national interest to use Avastin then the NHS should assume legal responsibility for the use of this unlicensed drug. By using Avastin unlicensed, doctors would be liable for any legal action and in conflict with GMC guidelines.
If Avastin is appraised and approved, the licensed drugs (Eylea and Lucentis) must still be available for people for whom Avastin is not suitable or who do not respond well to Avastin and people who expressly do not consent to be treated with an unlicensed drug.