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Press Release

Age-related Macular Degeneration


28 February 2008

Funding policy on sight drug “Shameful” says MP

Lynne Jones, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, spoke out at the shameful way in which her constituents are being denied treatment on the NHS that would save their sight.   “South Birmingham Primary Care Trust has effectively admitted that it is operating a ‘one-eye’ policy when it comes to funding treatment of ‘wet Age-related macular degeneration’ (wet AMD) with new drugs such as Lucentis (ranibizumab)”, she said.  “They have told me that they will only fund courses of Lucentis for wet AMD in circumstances where clinical details have indicated that the patient will lose vision in both eyes and the patient has the potential to respond fully to the treatment.  This is despite draft guidelines from NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, issued on 14 December 2007, which recommend that the NHS should pay for a maximum of 14 injections of ranibizumab per eye.[1]   In the course of protracted correspondence with South Birmingham PCT, the PCT remained adamant that, in advance of a final recommendation from NICE, which is not expected until May or June 2008, it will continue to consider funding treatment only “on an exceptional basis””.

Responses to an earlier consultation by NICE on their draft guidance for treatment with Lucentis made it clear that many people felt it was unacceptable for NICE to recommend treating only the second affected eye.   Two key issues were highlighted: the loss of sight in the first eye would cause anxiety and depression; and secondly, treating only the second eye could mean the patient could go completely blind if the second eye didn’t respond to treatment.  NICE took these concerns on board and now recommends treating the first eye to come to clinical attention.   

Lynne Jones said “Recently I attended a Royal National Institute for the Blind meeting for MPs who told me that South Birmingham PCT is amongst the worst trusts as regards the funding of treatment with Lucentis.   Norfolk PCT is an example of best practice – they are not only following the NICE 14th December draft guidance but have decided to reimburse patients who have already paid for earlier stages of their treatment themselves.”

Lynne went on to say “Many of those who suffer from wet age-related macular degeneration are, by definition, from the older generation, people who have paid all their lives for our, mostly wonderful, National Health System.  And just when they need it most they are being shamefully let down.   Nobody would dream of a situation where one leg was allowed to go because the patient had another one!  Those who have written to me are faced with the prospect of either having to pay sums they can ill afford or losing their sight in at least one eye.  This is not Government policy, it is a local funding decision and it is the wrong decision”.




[1] See NHS National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.  Issue 45, January 2008

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