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New sight loss drug made available to thousands on the NHS

(Alamy/PA)
(Alamy/PA)

A new sight loss drug is to be made available to thousands of people on the NHS a week after it was approved by the medicines regulator.

Faricimab (Vabysmo) is an eye injection made by Roche which works to improve vision – or cut vision loss – in people with wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) or diabetic macular oedema (DMO).

Experts say the jab can be given less frequently to some patients than other available medicines.

Data suggests some people can now wait up to 16 weeks between doses, compared with eight weeks for one current treatment, aflibercept.

After approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), faricimab has been given the green light by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) for use on the NHS.

Nice said up to 300,000 people in England with AMD could be eligible for it, together with 28,000 people with DMO.

Helen Knight, interim director for medicines evaluation at Nice, said: “We are determined to drive innovations like these into the hands of clinicians to help patients as soon possible.

“We will continue to work closely with our colleagues in other healthcare organisations to ensure we deliver progressive treatments which balance the best care with value for money, delivering both for individuals and society as a whole.”

Cathy Yelf, chief executive of sight loss charity the Macular Society, said: “Patients with wet age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular oedema face the burden of regular hospital visits to receive the vital treatment they need to save their sight.

“However, we know these trips can be arduous and often rely on the support of friends and family, sometimes as often as every four weeks.

“We are delighted that a new treatment option, which has the potential to maintain vision and help minimise the number of hospital visits, will be made available to patients in England.

“This will make a real difference to the lives of many people living with this devastating condition.”

Roche offered the NHS a discount on the drug following conversations with NHS England.

Thom Renwick, ophthalmology lead at Roche, said it was “delighted with the decision” to recommend “this new and effective treatment”.

He added: “Faricimab is the first and only bispecific antibody licensed in Great Britain for the treatment of the most common sight-threatening retinal conditions.”