A new drug for treatment of the wet form of age-related macular degeneration, known as AMD, has been approved by the FDA recently. AMD is a serious disease of the retina that can lead to severe vision loss and blindness.
Wet AMD is one of the leading causes of severe vision loss and blindness in the adult population. In the United States, as many as 15 million people suffer from some form of AMD-with more than 1.6 million cases of wet AMD. Approximately 200,000 new cases of wet AMD arise each year in the United States. Although wet AMD represents approximately 10% of all AMD cases, it is responsible for 90% of the severe vision loss associated with AMD, with a majority of wet AMD patients experiencing severe vision loss in the affected eye within months to two years after diagnosis of the disease. Because AMD generally affects adults over 50 years of age, the incidence of AMD should increase significantly as the baby boom generation ages and overall life expectancy increases.
Eyetech Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the maker of Macugen (pegaptanib sodium injection) states that the drug may provide considerable benefits over the existing therapies for wet AMD because it addresses the abnormal blood vessel growth and blood vessel leakage associated with wet AMD. The drug is injected into the vitreous, the jelly-like substance that fills the eye.
EyeTech further states that evidence suggests that the presence in the eye of elevated levels of a protein known as vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, plays an important role in causing this abnormal blood vessel growth and blood vessel leakage. Based on pre-clinical tests, EyeTech believes that Macugen (pegaptanib sodium injection) prevents VEGF from binding to its natural receptor, thereby inhibiting such abnormal blood vessel growth and blood vessel leakage.
In a December 30, 2004 New England Journal of Medicine editorial Frederick L. Ferris, III, MD, Clincial Director of the National Eye Institute, stated that physicians now have "&more than one way of attacking neovascularization, and thus may have the opportunity to test combinations of treatments, similar to the successful approaches used for various cancers."
Emory Eye Center's Daniel F. Martin, MD, a retinal specialist, treated the first patient in the world with Macugen in 1999 during clinical trials conducted at Emory Eye Center. "We are very pleased that this drug proved effective in large clinical trials for the treatment of web AMD," he says. "We are now investigating the drug in combination with other therapies with the hope of finding even more effective treatments."