This article first appeared on diaTribe.
The FDA approved Lucentis as a treatment for diabetic retinopathy in people with diabetic macular edema on February 6, making it the first-ever eye medicine approved to treat diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a long-term complication that stems from high blood sugars damaging the blood vessels in the retina (the back part of the eye that responds to light and is necessary for good vision). Please see this Mayo Clinic page for more information on diabetic retinopathy.
Lucentis works by stopping the negative effects of the protein that causes the abnormal changes of these blood vessels in the retina. The drug is a once-monthly injection given by a healthcare provider (the number of treatments depends on an individual’s case). Data from the RISE/RIDE clinical trials suggested that people with diabetic retinopathy on Lucentis experienced significant improvements in vision after two years compared to the vision of people not receiving treatment. For more information on Lucentis, including its insurance and co-pay information, please visitlucentis.com.
Lucentis has already been approved for the treatment of diabetic macular edema, and this recent approval for diabetic retinopathy is a major step for patients in our view. Recent data from the NIH shows that 40%-45% of people with diabetes have some level of diabetic retinopathy – that is absolutely astounding to us (we had no idea it was that high, but this also probably speaks to the stigma of diabetes and complications). To address such a pressing need, the FDA granted Lucentis a “priority review” to quicken its approval process for diabetic retinopathy and help it reach patients sooner – thanks so much for that, FDA!