Hampshire NHS makes U-turn over sight-loss drug policy

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HAMPSHIRE health officials have changed a policy which they had said would save millions of pounds after a legal challenge from a drugs manufacturer.

At a meeting yesterday the board for the Southampton, Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Portsmouth PCT cluster decided to stop using Avastin to treat wet Age-related Macular Degeneration, a form of sight loss.

Earlier this year Novartis, the manufacturers of another treatment for wet-AMD called Lucentis, launched a judicial review into Ship using Avastin, saying it was not proven to be safe.

In April Ship stuck to its guns and said that using Avastin for some cases could save up to £5m a year,

At that time Avastin cost about £60 per injection compared to £740 for Lucentis.

But now Ship has decided to stop using Avastin. It gave several reasons, saying that discounts were now being offered on Lucentis – but would not disclose how much the discount is.

It also said that it would be another 12 to 18 months before there was more evidence about exactly how effective both drugs are.

Ship board chairman Professor Jonathan Montgomery said: ‘We remain of the view that the policy was lawful, sensible and safe for patients. However, given the discount being offered, it will be possible to reduce significantly the £7.5m spent on Lucentis.’