Lucentis gets UK go-ahead

September 1, 2008

The UK's medical reimbursement governing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), is to reimburse Lucentis (ranibizumab; Novartis) jointly with Novartis under a dose-capping scheme, reversing NICE's earlier, much derided, decision not to reimburse the drug.

The UK's medical reimbursement governing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), is to reimburse Lucentis (ranibizumab; Novartis) jointly with Novartis under a dose-capping scheme, reversing NICE's earlier, much derided, decision not to reimburse the drug.

In June 2007, NICE had recommended Lucentis for use in just 20% of patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), when the healthier of two affected eyes came to clinical attention. The decision prompted outcry from the general public and from the medical community, and NICE received more than 13000 complaints, prompting the governing body to review the decision. In December 2007, NICE announced that it would allow reimbursement of Lucentis for wet AMD sufferers in the first eye to come to clinical attention, although many primary care trusts (PCTs) continued to follow the initial guidance; a Final Appraisal Document (FAD), published in May 2008, recommended that the drug be made available to all sufferers of wet AMD. The new announcement has confirmed the recommendations of the draft appraisal.

Lucentis will now be made available to all sufferers of wet AMD in the UK under the Ranibizumab Reimbursement Scheme (RRS), a collaboration between Novartis, the Department of Health and NICE, which ensures universal access to Lucentis to all wet AMD sufferers in England and Wales. The National Health Service (NHS) will cover the cost of the first 14 injections, and any subsequent injections will be covered by Novartis.

Mr Winfried Amoaku, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Hon Consultant Ophthalmologist (Retinal Specialist), University Hospital, Nottingham, and Vice-President of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, UK, said, "The final guidance is excellent news for patients with wet AMD who are in need of access to this highly effective treatment."