Health: Charities join forces to fight for sight drug

Four UK charities have joined forces to campaign for a potentially sight-saving drug to be made available for people with diabetic macular oedema after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence turned down an appeal for it to be used on the NHS.

Diabetes UK, JDRF, the Macular Disease Society and the Royal National Institute of Blind People are urging the manufacturer of Lucentis, Novartis, to rapidly agree a Patient Access Scheme with the Department of Health and NICE in order to reduce the cost of this treatment to the NHS and ensure the maximum number of people with DMO can benefit from the treatment without delay.

At least 50,000 people in the UK are affected by DMO, a serious eye condition which can lead to sight loss as a result of fluid leaking from the small blood vessels in the eye.

Traditionally, laser treatment has been the standard treatment for DMO on the NHS, yet this only stops vision from deteriorating further.

Lucentis, given in the form of an injection in the eye, however, is the first licensed treatment to improve vision in people with sight loss due to DMO.

Simon O’Neill of Diabetes UK, said: “We believe this treatment is vital to prevent people from needlessly losing their sight. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading causes of blindness in people of working age in the UK and the human impact of this stretches far beyond the financial costs.

“It is now of upmost importance that the drug manufacturer works with the Department of Health and NICE to negotiate the costs of this treatment so people with diabetes are still able to access it without detracting from other vital NHS services, such as diabetes specialist nurses and eye screening.”