$2 per dose vs. $1500 per dose: One doctor develops new therapy for macular degeneration

New York, NY- Richard Spaide, MD, ophthalmologist at the Vitreous, Retina, Macula Consultants of New York (www.vrmny.com), has developed a new combination treatment for "wet" age-related macular degeneration, the largest cause of blindness in people over the age of 50 years. Dr. Spaide presented this new treatment, the first treatment where a group of patients with age-related macular degeneration actually improved in acuity with treatment, this week on October 22, 2002 at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in Orlando, Florida. "Wet" age-related macular degeneration is caused by the inappropriate growth of blood vessels under the macula. These blood vessels may leak, bleed, and cause scar tissue to form. It is the largest cause of blindness in people over the age of 50 years.

Dr. Spaide's treatment involves giving the photodynamic therapy and an injection of triamcinolone, a drug normally used for the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, into the eye. Visudyne infusion is given to a patient followed by a treatment with a cold laser that does not injure the macular tissue.The combination of the drug and the cold laser results in an activated version of the drug causing the newly growing vessels to shut down and temporarily slows the growth of the macular degeneration. The problem with this treatment is the effects are only temporary. The vessels eventually re-grow with the result that most patients need between 3 and 4 treatments during the first year. Even with treatment most patients lose vision. The cost for the treatment is very high and many doubt its cost-effectiveness. Clinical trials have found that photodynamic therapy only works on a subset of patients with the wet form of age-related macular degeneration. Most patients cannot be treated with photodynamic therapy alone. Triamcinolone reduces the growth of vessels and decreases inflammation. The combination of photodynamic

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