The use of Avastin to treat patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is “unlawful” and “against the wider public interest” according to a statement from the United Kingdom Government’s Minister for Life Sciences, George Freeman MP.
The comments were made in response to calls from the heads of 120 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to review the off-label use of the drug for use in patients with AMD which could dramatically cut costs for the NHS. The CCGs asked the government and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to reappraise Avastin and look at comparative cost effectiveness of Avastin alongside the NICE-approved treatments Eylea and Lucentis.
“The use of Avastin to treat AMD is an unlicensed use and setting a policy for routine use of Avastin on ground of cost alone is not, therefore, something I can support nor would it be prudent for me to risk public funds by underwriting it,” wrote Mr. Freeman. In reference to currently available licensed treatments he wrote, “These drugs also have positive recommendations from NICE technology appraisals that mean that they are cost-effective options for treating (AMD).”
A report published in the British Medical Journal suggests that pharmaceutical companies have been involved in a sustained campaign to block the use of Avastin for AMD. Additionally uncertainty surrounds the personal liability of doctors who prescribe the drug in an off-label capacity. However it is estimated that switching to Avastin could save the National Health System more than £100m a year.