Novartis Pharmaceuticals, through its licensing agreements with Genentech/Roche, recently announced the European approval of a landmark drug known as Lucentis, which helps to reverse the vision loss associated with diabetic retinopathy, a long-term complication of diabetes. The Novartis-funded studies that led to the approval were supported by earlier studies conducted in the United States in which JDRF had active involvement. In fact, JDRF facilitated significant academic clinical research on the drug and advocated on Capitol Hill for funding for critically important National Eye Institute studies. Lucentis, or ranibizumab injection, works by stabilizing or reversing the effects of diabetic macular edema, a debilitating condition marked by swelling in the tissue in the center of the eye that provides detailed vision for activities such as reading, driving, and distinguishing faces. Diabetic macular edema can affect 30 to 40 percent of adults who have had diabetes for 20 years or longer, independent of their age of diagnosis.1
Lucentis is an exciting new treatment for several reasons. It is the first drug of its kind to help control and treat diabetes-related vision loss in adults with type 1 diabetes. The availability of this treatment may prompt adults who have been living with type 1 for more than five years to have their eyes screened by a medical professional, and may result in improved diagnosis and care of diabetic macular edema. The success of Lucentis may also pave the way for additional and affordable medications for the eye condition.
Genentech has not yet filed for approval in the United States for use of Lucentis for diabetic macular edema, but JDRF will continue to work to ensure that adults with diabetes in the United States can have access to this important treatment.
1Bhagat N, Grigorian RA, Tutela A, Zarbin MA, Diabetic macular edema: pathogenesis and treatment; Surv Ophthalmol. 2009 Jan-Feb;54(1):1-32