On Friday, November 18, 2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new treatment for wet macular degeneration. Developed by Regeneron, Eyelea injected every other month was shown to be comparable to Lucentis, when injected monthly. Side effects were similar to other injected drugs, most commonly discomfort and redness at the site of the injection. An increase in intraocular pressure was seen, so retinal specialists are cautioned to monitor patients for this issue. This side effect is seen with Lucentis and Avastin as well and most are temporary.
The hoped for benefit of Eyelea would be to reduce the number of treatments needed to halt or slow progression. The recommendation for Eyelea is treatment every four weeks for the first three months, followed by treatment every 8 weeks. Physicians are allowed to modify this treatment plan, based on the patient's response to treatment. This approach is already being used with Lucentis and Avastin and has reduced the number of yearly injections needed with those drugs as well.
Every individual responds uniquely to treatments. Patients and their doctors welcome this new therapy option. It allows doctors to advise and treat their patients with AMD in the manner that works best for the individual.
The cost of Eyelea is similar to Lucentis, at $1850 per treatment, but much more costly than Avastin. Medicare is expected to cover it, though with new drugs, it sometimes takes a few months before the system routinely pays for services. Regeneron, like Genentech before it, expects to work with charitable agencies to help patients with a financial need to cover the copayment, starting next year.