August 28, 2008
Patients See Brighter Future With Wider Use of Sight-Saving Drug ; People Who Face Going Blind Will Now Have Access to a Sight-Saving Drug on the NHS Following a Massive Campaign to Make the Medication More Widely Available.
By JULIA BRADSHAW
People who face going blind will now have access to a sight- saving drug on the NHS following a massive campaign to make the medication more widely available.The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has today published guidelines instructing primary care trusts in England and health boards in Wales to fund the drug Lucentis for patients who have wet age- related macular degeneration in either eye.
But patients across Devon have already been benefiting from this drug for months.
In a success for the Echo's Save Our Sight campaign, which had been pushing for more people to be offered Lucentis on the NHS, Devon Primary Care Trust announced in May that it would supply the medication ahead of national guidance on it being formalised.
The trust relaxed conditions so patients could receive treatment in an affected eye if it met the necessary criteria, even if their vision in the other eye was perfect.
Now all primary care trusts across England and Wales will have to follow suit.
Cora Slade, a retired nurse from Sidmouth who suffers from wet AMD, was initially refused treatment on the NHS before Devon Primary Care Trust decided to start supplying the medication.
She is now using Lucentis on a regular basis and says it is working well.
She said: "I will be having my next injection in September. I've been very lucky I caught it early.
"Lucentis is helping very much. I would think it will be a miracle for those who need it in the rest of the country because it's the only answer to stopping people who suffer from the condition from going blind."
Wet AMD, which affects the central part of the retina, is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK, affecting around a quarter of a million people, with 26,000 new cases each year.
If left untreated, the condition can lead to blindness in as little as three months.
Lucentis has proven in studies to be a "wonder drug" in successfully treating the condition.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People has led a two-and-a- half-year battle to make sight-saving treatments available on the NHS to all patients with wet AMD.
Steve Winyard, head of campaigns at the RNIB, said: "We have been waiting for this for over two years. It is a victory for thousands, bringing overwhelming relief to desperate people across the country.
"Finally, the torment caused by elderly people forced to either spend their life savings on private treatment or go blind is over."
The Echo's Save Our Sight campaign was launched last year after it was disclosed patients were going blind because drugs to treat wet AMD were not available on the NHS.
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