Avastin® is the brand name for bevacizumab. It is a drug injected into the eye to slow vision loss in people who have “wet” age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other blood vessel diseases of the retina.
Avastin is part of a class of drugs that stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels. These abnormal vessels cause wet AMD. Avastin is also sometimes used to treat macular edema (swelling of the macula), often associated with diabetic retinopathy and retinal vein occlusion.
Avastin was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for different types of cancer. Its use to treat eye disease is an “off-label” use. The FDA allows doctors to prescribe drugs for conditions other than those for which they were approved. In these cases, doctors must be well informed about the product and there must be proof of the drug’s positive effects.
Lucentis® (ranibizumab), is another drug that is chemically similar to Avastin. The FDA approved Lucentis to treat wet AMD. The National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the federal National Institutes of Health (NIH), funded a study to compare Avastin and Lucentis. The study found the two drugs to have equal effect on visual acuity.
How does Avastin work?
For abnormal blood vessels to multiply in your eye, they need a chemical called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF. Avastin blocks the production of VEGF, slowing the growth of blood vessels in the eye that can leak and cause vision loss. The drugs that stop the trouble-causing VEGF are called anti-VEGF drugs.
What conditions are treated with Avastin?
Avastin is used to treat wet AMD. This condition damages the macula, which is at the center of the retina and enables you to see fine details clearly. You rely on your macula whenever you read, drive, or do other activities that need you to focus on precise details. A person diagnosed with AMD loses the ability to perceive fine details both up close and at a distance. This vision loss usually affects specifically your central vision.
Avastin is used to treat wet AMD.
This condition damages the macula, which is at the center of the retina and enables you to see fine details clearly.
There are two types of AMD. About 90% of individuals with AMD have the atrophic or “dry” form of AMD, which develops when the tissues of the macula grow thin with age. About 10% carry the exudative or “wet” form of AMD. With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina. These unhealthy vessels ooze blood and fluid, which can scar the macula. Vision loss can be fast and severe. Avastin is not effective for the treatment of dry AMD.
Avastin is also used to treat macular edema due to central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) or branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO). The drug may also be used to treat macular edema due to diabetic retinopathy.
What happens during treatment with Avastin?
Your ophthalmologist administers the Avastin® straight into your eye in an outpatient procedure.
Before the procedure, your ophthalmologist will clean your eye to avoid infection and will use an anesthetic to numb your eye. The drug is then placed in the back of your eye with a very fine needle, passed through the white part of your eye. Generally, you do not see the needle itself. You may receive multiple Avastin injections over the course of many months. Repeat treatments are often needed for continued benefit.
Your ophthalmologist may recommend combining Avastin treatment with other wet AMD treatments. The treatment that’s right for you will depend on your specific condition.
What are the risks of Avastin treatment?
Every treatment has the potential for side effects. You should understand the benefits and risks of any treatment you are considering.
Avastin may cause serious eye problems, including serious eye infection, detached retina and cataracts. Other side effects may include:
- light sensitivity
- changes in vision, including blurring and double vision
- dry or itchy eyes
- feeling of something in your eye
Avastin is one of a class of drugs that block the growth of abnormal blood vessels that cause wet AMD. The drug is injected into the eye to slow vision loss in people who have “wet” AMD. It is sometimes used to treat macular edema. Every treatment has the potential for side effects. However, without treatment, vision loss from wet AMD and macular edema can be fast and severe.