Switzerland first to approve blindness drug

Switzerland has become the first European country to approve Lucentis, a new drug from Novartis, as a treatment for vision loss from age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The more severe form of AMD, known as 'wet' AMD, is one of the leading causes of blindness in people over the age of 50.

During clinical trials of Lucentis, over 90 per cent of patients maintained vision, while over 68 per cent experienced an improvement in their eyesight.

Dr Sebastian Wolf of the Inselspital Universitat in Bern, Switzerland, described the new drug as "a revolution".

"Lucentis will change the way we treat our wet AMD patients," he commented. "For the first time we can offer patients the hope that they will regain some vision, rather than just slow the loss of vision."

Novartis has submitted the drug for approval in the European Union and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) has confirmed that it is considering its guidance on the drug.

Drugs that are not yet available on the NHS can be obtained privately and, considering the rapidity with which wet AMD progresses, many patients will undoubtedly choose to seek private treatment in preference to awaiting Nice's guidance on the drug.

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