Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness over the age of fifty. Imagine what that means, to know you are going to see less and less until nothing.
The disease is caused by a protein that triggers abnormal blood vessels to grow and leak under the retina.
The best treatments have always just slowed the progression of the disease. But, a drug recently approved called Lucentis has shown that it can actually reverse the condition in some patients.
For most patients like Mosely Barker don't mind that it has to be injected into the eye.
"I will do anything to get my eye sight back," said Mosely Barker, a patient.
"This is taking somebody who can't drive, can't recognize faces, can't tell what time it is, to the level of vision where they can recognize faces and they can drive. About forty percent after two years had 20/40 or better vision," said Dr. Philip Rosenfeld, an Ophthalmologist.
There's just one problem, and it's a really big one. A single dose of Lucentis costs $1,950.
Here's the good news. Dr. Rosenfeld was the first to try a similar, but much less expensive drug called Avastin on macular degeneration patients. It is actually intended for colon cancer, but is proving to help fight that eye disease as well.
"We saw the same dramatic effects when the Avastin is injected into the eye that we saw with Lucentis when it was injected into the eye," said Dr. Rosenfeld. Instead of costing nearly $2000, Avastin costs about $50.
But Avastin is not approved yet for this purpose so it's not covered by medicare. Even so, tests are about to begin to compare the two drugs. We'll let you know if Avastin, the less expensive option, becomes a medicare option in the treatment of macular degeneration.