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NICE strikes cost-sharing deal on macular degeneration drug Lucentis

NICE has struck an unusual cost-sharing agreement with a pharmaceutical company to enable all suitable patients in England and Wales access to a treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration.

The scheme will mean a patient's first 14 treatments with ranibizumab (Lucentis) will be paid for by the NHS, but any subsequent injections will be paid for by Novartis, the manufacturers of the drug.

Previous recommendations reserved ranibizumab for people who had a confirmed diagnosis of predominantly classic subfoveal choroidal neovascularisation, but this stipulation has now been removed.

Mr. Gavin Walters, a retinal specialist at Harrogate and York District Hospitals, said: "We are delighted that final NICE guidance is here.

Wet age-related macular degeneration can have a devastating effect on a person's quality of life, taking away patients' independence and their confidence. This guidance will undoubtedly help patients across England and Wales gain better access to treatment,' he said.

Mr Walters added that if GPs have a suspicion that a patient has wet AMD, they should refer the patient directly to a retinal specialist rather than a general ophthalmologist.

‘The retinal specialist holds the expertise to diagnose and treat wet AMD,' he said.

NICE had said that patients should wait until they go blind in one eye before being given access to the drug, despite it being widely available and funded for patients in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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