Eyes 2NICE has today announced that EYLEA (aflibercept solution for injection, known in the scientific literature as VEGF Trap-Eye) is recommended for the treatment of patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (wAMD).

EYLEA is the first new medicine in ophthalmology to be fast tracked to Final Appraisal Determination (FAD), without the need for additional consultation. This decision means that eligible patients in England and Wales, who have been newly diagnosed or have not responded well to other medicines, will now have more choice in their wAMD treatment.  EYLEA has been shown in two clinical studies to work as well as current treatment, but requires fewer hospital visits, reducing the burden for patients, relatives and the NHS. wAMD is a disease of the elderly and  with 10 million people in the UK over 65 years old, the numbers are set to increase. 

The latest projections are that there will be 5½ million more elderly people in 20 years and the number will have nearly doubled to around 19 million by 2050.6  A recent study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology states that some 40,000 people are newly diagnosed with wAMD each year in the UK and current estimates predict there will be more than 450,000 people with the condition by 2015. If left untreated, or inadequately treated, wAMD is the most common cause of blindness in the western world.8,9 

Advances in wAMD treatment have gone a long way to improve the vision of people with wAMD in recent years, but the need for monthly hospital visits means that fewer than 50 per cent of eye clinics are able to meet waiting times for the first injection10 and 80 per cent are failing to achieve the four week follow up time required.10 

Helen Jackman, Chief Executive of the Macular Society comments, “We believe that failure to commission or deliver the appropriate level of care will mean that people will lose their sight and place additional burden on other health and social care services. 

“Sight loss is devastating and all the more so when it is preventable.  The approval of Eylea may well help to ease the enormous pressure on eye clinics and bearing this in mind, we hope that this decision will be implemented quickly by the NHS. 

“Demand for this sort of treatment is rising, especially as some patients are opting out of going to their monthly appointments due to the physical, mental, and sometimes financial, strain. Acting quickly to provide appropriate treatment will save people’s sight.”

wAMD distorts central vision, making it blurry with straight lines appearing crooked or wavy. Over time, it may cause a blank patch in central vision.If left untreated or inadequately treated, it can lead to blindness in as little as three months.

wAMD can have a great impact on a person’s quality of life. However, as with most illnesses, early diagnosis and rapid treatment give people the best chance of delaying the progression of wAMD and preventing permanent damage.