A new treatment for visual impairment caused by diabetic macular oedema (DMO) has this week been added to the list of medicines that are not considered an ‘effective use of NHS resources’. NICE has concluded that it does not recommend Lucentis® (ranibizumab) for use within the NHS in England and Wales for the treatment of visual impairment due to Diabetic Macular Oedema (DMO).
JDRF believes it is vital that patients with diabetic macular oedema receive safe and effective treatments for their condition. This is why we supported the early development of Lucentis through our Innovative Grant programme. Further collaboration with Genentech, a biotech company based in San Francisco, and Johns Hopkins Medical School, enabled clinical research to help reveal the full therapeutic benefit of the drug for people with type 1 diabetes.
DMO is caused by swelling in the centre of the retina – the light-sensitive area at the back of the eye that provides detailed vision. The swelling results from damage to small blood vessels caused by years of elevated blood sugar levels, which –even with the best possible treatment – are hard to avoid entirely when living with type 1 diabetes.
The standard treatment for DMO has been the same for the last 25 years – laser treatment to destroy areas of abnormal blood vessel growth at the back of the eye. However this treatment does not improve vision, it only slows the progression of the condition.
Therefore the decision by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to not recommend the drug ranibizumab (marketed as Lucentis) for use within the NHS to treat DMO is disappointing. Current research indicates that ranibizumab is highly effective in treating DMO and, significantly, that it meets an unmet need for patients who do not respond well to the current standard laser treatment.
Lucentis has been approved in the USA for the treatment of DMO, and is also approved in Europe for treating another eye condition, wet age-related macular degeneration. The fact that ranibizumab has not been NICE approved for the treatment of visual impairment caused by diabetic macular oedema means that clinicians may be forced to turn to unlicensed and therefore untested alternatives, putting patients’ sight at risk.
If left untreated, diabetic macular oedema can lead to vision loss. The condition affects approximately 28% of people who have had diabetes for at least 20 years. The standard treatment of this condition has been the same for the last 25 years – laser treatment to destroy areas of abnormal blood vessel growth at the back of the eye. However, despite reducing the progression of the condition, this treatment does not improve vision.
JDRF campaigns to raise awareness of type 1 diabetes, informing key decision makers about the issues people living with the condition face. If you haven't already, get involved with JDRF's 1 Campaign. Together we can lobby the Government to invest more money in medical research and to improve access to treatments.