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Big news for people with diabetes: Anti-VEGF agent ranibizumab approved to treat diabetic retinopathy to prevent vision loss
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today expanded the approved use for ranibizumab injection 0.3 mg (Lucentis) to treat diabetic retinopathy (DR) in patients with diabetic macular edema (DME).
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and is a leading cause of blindness in adults in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes (type 1 and type 2) affects more than 29 million people in the United States and is the leading cause of new blindness among people ages 20 to 74 years. In 2008, 33 percent of adults with diabetes aged 40 years or older had some form of DR. In some cases of DR with DME, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. Severe vision loss or blindness can occur if the new blood vessels break.
“Diabetes is a serious public health crisis, affecting more patients every year,” said Edward Cox, M.D., M.P.H, director of the Office of Antimicrobial Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Today’s approval gives patients with diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema the first significant therapy to treat this vision-impairing complication.”
The drug’s safety and efficacy to treat DR with DME were established in two clinical studies involving 759 participants who were treated and followed for three years. In the two studies, participants being treated with ranibizumab showed significant improvement in the severity of their DR at two years compared to patients who did not receive an injection.
The FDA granted ranibizumab (Lucentis) for DR with DME breakthrough therapy designation. The FDA can designate a drug a breakthrough therapy at the request of the sponsor if preliminary clinical evidence indicates the drug may demonstrate a substantial improvement over available therapies for patients with serious or life-threatening conditions.
The FDA previously had approved ranibizumab (Lucentis) to treat DME and macular edema secondary to retinal vein occlusions, both of which cause fluid to leak into the macula resulting in blurred vision. Ranibizumab (Lucentis) also is approved to treat wet (neovascular) age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition in which abnormal blood vessels grow and leak fluid into the macula.