NICE refuses use of Lucentis for NHS treatment of maculopathy

Friday 15 July 2011

The National Insitute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has ruled against the use of Lucentis (Ranibizumab) for the treatment of diabetic macular oedema (DMO) within the NHS. DMO is an eye condition which affects around 50,000 people in the UK and causes loss of vision. If left untreated it can lead to blindness.

For the past 25 years, laser treatment has been the current standard treatment on the NHS and although it does stop deterioration, it has not been shown to improve vision. Over time, laser surgery can cause irreversible damage to the surrounding eye tissue due to the destructive nature of the treatment.

Significant improvements in vision

Lucentis is the first licensed treatment to improve vision and vision-related quality of life in people with sight loss due to DMO. Research has shown that Lucentis not only offers stabilisation of vision loss but that it can also lead to significant improvements in vision.

NICE has rejected the use of Lucentis on the grounds of expense: injections cost £742 per eye, and some patients can require multiple monthly injections. However, people currently treated with Lucentis have the option to continue treatment until they and their clinicians consider it appropriate to stop. The full Final Appraisal Determination can be downloaded from the box on the right.

Campaign for NICE to reconsider

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said, "This decision means more people will needlessly lose their sight. We pressed hard to make this treatment available on the NHS and we will campaign for NICE to reconsider its decision. The cost of looking after people with sight loss far outweighs the cost of Lucentis treatment, let alone the human cost.

"We are very concerned local health services will use this decision as an excuse to stop treatment. We will monitor the situation across the country closely to ensure patients currently receiving Lucentis continue to do so as per the NICE guidance. We would also like to see urgent testing into alternative treatments for diabetic macular oedema."