Public Release:  Early treatment of macular degeneration with macugen may help patients preserve their vision

University of California - Los Angeles

BACKGROUND: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in older patients in the developed world. Vascular endothelial growth factor is one of the key mediators stimulating the abnormal blood vessel growth and leakage characteristic of the exudative (wet) form of the condition. Pegaptanib sodium (Macugen) is a new treatment for exudative AMD, and has been shown to stabilize vision in approximately 70 percent of cases.

FINDINGS: The researchers performed an exploratory analysis of the outcomes of patients with early exudative lesions at week 54 in clinical trials of pegaptanib sodium in the landmark VISION (VEGF Inhibition Study in Ocular Neovascularization) study. The patients were divided into two groups. The researchers found that at week 54, 76 percent of patients in group 1 receiving pegaptanib lost fewer than 15 letters or three lines of vision on the ETDRS eye chart, compared with 50 percent of patients undergoing usual care. In group 2, that proportion was 80 percent and 57 percent, respectively. A number of patients treated with pegaptanib even regained some sight. In addition, patients who underwent usual care for AMD were 10 times more likely to experience severe vision loss than those treated with pegaptanib.

IMPACT:The study found that early detection and treatment of age-related macular degeneration with pegaptanib sodium may enable AMD patients to maintain and, in some cases, regain vision. As a result, the Jules Stein Eye Institute is launching a prospective, open-label, multi-center trial to evaluate the efficacy and safety of pegaptanib in 40 patients with early onset of AMD.

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AUTHOR: The lead author is Dr. Christine R. Gonzales, assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA.

JOURNAL: The research appears in the October 2005 issue of RETINA.

FUNDERS: Eyetech Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Pfizer Inc.

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