New treatment to improve vision loss for diabetics

31 Jan 2011

Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK has announced the launch in the UK of Lucentis (ranibizumab) for the treatment of visual impairment due to diabetes, specifically diabetic macular oedema (DMO).

It is the first licensed therapy to improve vision and vision-related quality of life in people with visual impairment due to DMO.

For people with diabetes, visual impairment is one of the most feared complications of the condition and is often caused by DMO. People with visual impairment due to DMO are less able to live and work independently.

Until now, laser treatment has been the standard treatment, offering stabilisation of vision loss but no significant improvement. In some people with diabetes who are experiencing visual impairment, ranibizumab can offer rapid and sustained vision gains compared to laser alone. The visual improvements of at least two additional lines on an eye chart could make an extraordinary difference to the person's quality of life and independence.

DMO affects 5-10% of people with diabetes, and in many it will cause visual impairment. Visual loss due to DMO occurs in around 50,000 people in the UK. Diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are above normal and is known to cause serious health complications, including heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

Simon O'Neill, Director of Care, Information and Advocacy at Diabetes UK commented on the importance of good eye health for those with diabetes: "DMO is one of many serious and common complications of diabetes, therefore it is important that people with diabetes undergo annual eye tests, including a retinal photograph, and have a greater awareness of their eye health, so that they can immediately respond to any changes in their vision."

If DMO is left untreated, there is a 25-30% risk of developing clinically significant macular oedema, leading to vision loss. Moderate visual loss will occur in approximately 24% of untreated eyes where clinically significant macular oedema has developed. Furthermore, even with current treatment, 12% of eyes develop moderate visual loss after 3 years.

Mr. Nicholas Beare, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, who led clinical research investigating the use of ranibizumab for treating DMO, explains what this new option means for the future of treating this condition: "Ranibizumab has the potential to transform treatment for people with diabetic macular oedema in the UK. For the last 25 years, laser therapy has been the standard treatment for DMO but it is not generally associated with visual improvement, whereas ranibizumab has been shown to produce a rapid and sustained improvement in vision."

The safety profile of ranibizumab in DMO is comparable to that seen in previous studies for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), adding further weight to its established safety profile, shown through the robust ranibizumab clinical trial programme.


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