The NHS could save more than £84 million a year if it switched treatment for a common eye condition to a cheaper drug used to treat cancer, study authors have claimed.
One of the largest trials carried out in the field of eye disease in the UK has shown similar effectiveness in treating wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) when using either Lucentis, licensed for treating wet AMD, or Avastin, currently licensed for cancer treatment, research has found.
Scientists and eye specialists at 23 hospitals and UK universities analysed the results from a trial, named IVAN, involving 610 people with wet AMD.
The study authors said the findings indicated that the NHS in the UK could save £84.5 million a year, based on injecting 17,295 eyes each year, by switching from Lucentis to Avastin, and administering the treatment on an "as-needed" basis.
Professor Usha Chakravarthy of Queen's University Belfast centre for vision and vascular science, who led the research study team, said: "The IVAN results at the end of the first year show that Lucentis and Avastin have similar effectiveness.
"Regardless of the drug received, or treating monthly or as needed, sight in the affected eye improved by between one and two lines on a standard eye test."
Wet AMD affects about 10% of all people with AMD, a common eye condition among people aged 50 and older and a leading cause of blindness in older adults.
Currently Avastin is licensed for use in treating five different types of cancer, including cancer of the bowel and breast - but not for wet AMD.