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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Two Year Trial Finds Avastin, Lucentis Effective in Restoring Vision for Elderly with AMD

Age-related macular degeneration is leading cause of vision loss and blindness for senior citizens

April 30, 2012 – At the conclusion of a two-year clinical trial, good news was reported for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in senior citizens. The study concluded the two widely used treatment drugs – Avastin (bevacizumab) and Lucentis (ranibizumab injection) – are both effective in producing “a robust and lasting improvement in vision.”

They improve vision when administered monthly or on an as needed basis, although greater improvements in vision were seen with monthly administration for this common, debilitating eye disease, according to researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health. The average age of the AMD patients tested was over 80 years of age.


Related Archive Stories


Avastin and Lucentus Equal for Treating Age-Related Macular Degeneration Says NIH Study

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in senior citizens  - May 4, 2011

Glaucoma Week Aims to Make Seniors More Aware of Second Leading Cause of Blindness

Older Americans at high risk of this ‘sneak thief of sight’ says National Eye Institute - Jan. 11, 2012

Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment with Gene Therapy Shows Promise

AMD results in a loss of sharp, central vision; number one cause of visual impairment among Americans age 60 and older

April 29, 2011

Major Cause of Blindness in Senior Citizens, Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Appears in Decline

U.S. study says AMD in those over 40 drops to 6.5% from 9.4% in 1994 - watch videos

Jan. 10, 2011

Cataract Surgery Does Not Appear to Make Age-Related Macular Degeneration Worse

Editorial says more research is needed; patients should be briefed on all study findings - Nov. 9, 2009

Age-Related Macular Degeneration Halted by Blocking Protein to Stop Blood Vessel Growth

Protein CCR3 a new target for diagnosis and treatment of AMD, the most common cause of blindness in senior citizens.

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Ten Years of Data on Studies of Age-Related Eye Disease Now Available to Researchers

Looked at progression of age-related macular degeneration and age-related cataract in 4,757 older adults - Nov. 11, 2008

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Second study finds older diabetes patients more likely to have eye disease than those without the disease - Oct. 13, 2008

Rehab Program Improves Visual Function for Low-Vision Elderly with Macular Disease

Low-vision rehabilitation aims to restore functional ability, such as reading - May 13, 2008

Robo4 Stops Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy in Mice

‘This is a major breakthrough in an area where the advances have been minimal’ - March 17, 2008

Canadians Claim Major Discovery in Fight Against Dry Form of AMD

Age-related macular degeneration discovery is new hope to fight leading cause of blindness in senior citizens - Feb. 20, 2008

Blinding Age-Related Macular Degeneration Progress Linked to Common Genetic Variants

Obesity and smoking found to greatly increase the risk - April 24, 2007

More Proof that Smoking Increases Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Blindness for Senior Citizens

Current smokers 4 times more likely to develop AMD; past smokers 3 times as likely to have advanced form of the disease - Aug. 13, 2007

Senior Citizens Show No Eye Disease Concern Despite Dramatic Increase

American Academy of Ophthalmology opens EyeSmart education effort  - Aug. 1, 2007

Are You Dying of Poor Vision? Older People with Cataracts or AMD at Higher Risk of Death

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Age-Related Macular Degeneration Risk Increases with Interaction of Genetics and Lifestyle

Mutant of CFH gene plus smoking increased risk 8.69 times - Jan. 9, 2007

Drug Treatment Slows Macular Vision Loss in Diabetics

Inspired by ranibuzumab (Lucentis) slowing vision loss in people with macular degeneration - Dec. 15, 2006

Gene Linked to Aggressive 'Wet' Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Patients with HTRA1 SNP 10 times more likely to have wet AMD  - Nov. 22, 2006

Drug Treatment Slows Macular Vision Loss in Diabetics

Inspired by ranibuzumab (Lucentis) slowing vision loss in people with macular degeneration -Dec. 15, 2006

Top 10 Stories of 2006 by Harvard Health Letter Picks Key Ones for Senior Citizens

Lucentis for macular degeneration, Zostavax for shingles make list - Dec. 4, 2006


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Of the two drugs, Avastin is most frequently used to treat AMD. However, prior to the Comparison of AMD Treatments Trials (CATT), a two-year clinical trial, the two drugs had never been compared head-to-head. Second year results were published today in the journal Ophthalmology. First year results were published in the May 19, 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in older Americans. In its advanced stages, the wet form of AMD spurs the growth of abnormal blood vessels, which leak fluid and blood into the macula and obscure vision.

The macula is the central portion of the retina that allows us to look straight ahead and to perceive fine visual detail. Accumulation of fluid and blood damages the macula, causing loss of central vision, which can severely impede mobility and independence. Without treatment, most patients become unable to drive, read, recognize faces or perform tasks that require hand-eye coordination.

"Therapies for AMD require repeated treatment to prevent vision loss. Results of this clinical trial provide evidence that long-term treatment with either drug results in a robust and lasting improvement in vision. Patients and clinicians now have valuable information to base treatment decisions," said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NEI.

Avastin and Lucentis block growth of abnormal blood vessels and leakage of fluid from the vessels.

Lucentis was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 for the treatment of AMD. Avastin is very similar to Lucentis but is not approved by the FDA for this purpose. Avastin is approved for other indications. Most clinicians use these drugs on an as-needed basis when there is evidence of active disease, such as fluid leakage.

However, in the original clinical trials for AMD, Lucentis was administered monthly. It was unknown if as-needed dosing would produce the same long-term visual improvements achieved with monthly administration.

Thus, CATT was designed to compare Avastin and Lucentis with monthly and as-needed treatment schedules.

At enrollment, patients were assigned to four treatment groups defined by drug (Avastin or Lucentis) and dosing regimen (monthly or as-needed). After year one, patients initially assigned to monthly treatment were randomly reassigned to monthly or as-needed treatment without changing their drug assignment.

At two years, visual acuity with monthly treatment was slightly better than with as-needed dosing, regardless of the drug. As measured on an eye chart, monthly treatment resulted in a mean improvement of about half a line better than as-needed dosing. Switching to as-needed treatment after one year of monthly treatment yielded outcomes nearly equal to those obtained with as-needed treatment for the full two years.

Changes in retinal anatomy differed by drug and frequency of treatment, but did not have an impact on vision through two years.

"Both drugs were highly effective regardless of the approach to dosing,” said Daniel F. Martin, M.D., study chair for CATT and chairman of the Cole Eye Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

“There was slightly less vision gain with as-needed treatment. Patients seeking the small extra advantage of monthly treatment need to be mindful of the additional burden, risks, and costs of monthly injections. Since as-needed dosing required 10 fewer eye injections over the course of two years and yielded similar visual results, many patients may choose this option."

Adverse events indicate development or worsening of a medical condition. They may or may not be causally associated with the clinical trial treatment, but they are always monitored and reported in any clinical trial.

The median age of patients in CATT was over 80 years, and a high rate of hospitalizations would be anticipated as a result of chronic or acute medical conditions more common to older populations.

Serious adverse events (SAEs) occurred at a 40 percent rate for patients receiving Avastin and a 32 percent rate for patients receiving Lucentis.

Although Avastin had a higher rate of SAEs, they were distributed across many different conditions, most of which were not associated with Avastin when evaluated in cancer clinical trials, in which the drug was administered at 500 times the dose used for AMD.

Fewer doses were associated with a higher rate of SAEs, which is not a typical dose-response relationship. The number of deaths, heart attacks, and strokes were low and similar for both drugs during the study. CATT was not capable of determining whether there is an association between a particular adverse event and treatment.

Additional data from other clinical trials may provide information on long-term safety profiles of these drugs when used to treat AMD.

"The dramatic and lasting improvement in vision with these two drugs is extraordinary. At two-years, two-thirds of patients had driving vision (20/40 vision or better). With previous treatments, only 15 percent of patients retained similar visual acuity," said Maureen Maguire, Ph.D., principal investigator, CATT Coordinating Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

More information is available on the NEI website.

The National Eye Institute (NEI), a component of the National Institutes of Health, is the federal government's lead agency for vision research that leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual impairment and blindness. For more information, visit the NEI Web site at

Find more information about this clinical trial (NCT00593450).
Supporting NIH Grants: U10EY017823, U10EY017828, U10EY017825.

About Macular Degeneration

Also called: Age-related macular degeneration, AMD 

Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 and older. It is a disease that destroys your sharp, central vision. You need central vision to see objects clearly and to do tasks such as reading and driving.

AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. It does not hurt, but it causes cells in the macula to die. In some cases, AMD advances so slowly that people notice little change in their vision. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in both eyes. Regular comprehensive eye exams can detect macular degeneration before the disease causes vision loss. Treatment can slow vision loss. It does not restore vision.

>> NIH: National Eye Institute at MedlinePlus

Watch Video from National Eye Institute

>> Click to video - “What is Macular Degeneration

Coping with Macular Degeneration - opens in new window


Watch Video from NIH Senior Health

"Coping with Macular Degeneration" [5 min 21 sec]



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