Health authority’s shock refusal for eye sight saving jab

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A HEALTH authority has refused to approve a drug which would improve eye sight for patients with diabetes facing blindness.

NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) turned down an appeal by four charities to fund Lucentis on the NHS, a drug administered by injection which can improve eyesight for patients suffering diabetes macular oedema. DMO is a serious eye condition which can lead to sight loss as a result of fluid leaking from the small blood vessels in the eye.

There are 15,037 people diagnosed with diabetes in the East Sussex and Weald PCT area and an estimated 8,200 people who have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes in the region, says Diabetes UK.

Simon O’Neill, director of care, information and advocacy at Diabetes UK, said: “Naturally we are disappointed that NICE has turned down our appeal as we believe this treatment is vital to prevent people from needlessly losing their sight.

“Diabetic retinopathy is the leading causes of blindness in people of working age in the UK and the human impact of this stretches far beyond the financial costs.”

The four UK charities which joined forces against NICE’s decision were: Diabetes UK, JDRF, the Macular Disease Society and the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

NICE said an independent appraisal committee concluded that Novartis, the manufacturer of ‘ranibizumab monotherapy’ (Lucentis), had not proven the medicine to be a ‘true reflection of the cost-effectiveness’ compared to current treatment for DMO such as laser treatment.

Laser treatment preserves eye sight – but Lucentis can improve vision.

Lucentis did not ‘represent an effective use of NHS resources’, a NICE spokeswoman told the Sussex Express, adding: “It is important that drugs provide the best benefit for patients for the price the NHS has to pay for them.”

It costs £742.17 per monthly injection usually lasting three months.

The four charities want manufacturer Novartis to agree a patient access scheme with NICE and the Government.