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New drug treatment could stop blindness

Doctors in Manchester have begun a groundbreaking drug trial that could stop hundreds of thousands of people in the UK from going blind. A team from Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Manchester have been given the green light to test Avastin on more than 300 patients with ‘wet’ age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This condition is responsible for 50 per cent of all cases of blindness in the UK. Patients will have regular injections into the eye of Avastin over the two years of the study. Early research with small numbers of volunteers suggests that Avastin is at least as effective as a similar, but more expensive treatment designed to treat wet AMD called Lucentis. Researchers hope that if the treatment proves successful with larger numbers of patients, eye specialists will be given the go-ahead to prescribe Avastin routinely for patients with AMD on the NHS. The independent study is being funded by the ten primary care trusts in Greater Manchester and patients will be recruited across that area. Study leader, Professor Paul Bishop, a consultant ophthalmologist at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, said: “Wet AMD is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the retina at the back of the eye. The damage to the retina caused by these blood vessels results in irreversible visual loss. Avastin stops these abnormal blood vessels from growing and leaking.” For further information please contact:
  • Jill Hulme, Communications Officer, Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals NHS Trust, on 07913 278514.
  • University of Manchester, on 0161 275 8383.