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A Genentech Eye Treatment Is Found to Help Prevent Vision Loss in Diabetics

Rating

5 Star

A Genentech Eye Treatment Is Found to Help Prevent Vision Loss in Diabetics

Our Review Summary

This story reports on the results of a newly published phase III trial demonstrating the benefits of the drug Lucentis for vision in those with diabetic macular edema.   While including pertinent information about the possible benefits, harms, and costs, the story also included some information about another very similar medication available at lower cost. It raises important questions about the possible impact of corporate sponsorship of clinical trials. That’s something the other two stories didn’t do.  In the study reported on, not only did the company supply its more expensive drug for use in the study, they contributed $9 million dollars to run the study with the caveat that the less expensive form of the molecular not be included in the study.  While it is exciting to have a new treatment for diabetic macular edema, it seems unfortunate not to study both medications to determine whether the more expensive one really adds value.

 

Why This Matters

With promising results attributable to the more expensive medication it becomes almost impossible for government and commercial payors to not cover it.  It is precisely these sorts of studies that have driven health care costs in our country beyond a sustainable level.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

 Kudos!  This story reported on the costs of the drug Lucentis as well as the less expensive Avastin.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

 The story provided quantitative information about the possible impact on vision. But we wish there information about any measurement of  the patients’ perspective on whether they are functioning better after receiving this treatment versus standard treatment

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Satisfactory

 While the story did include the common side effect of the drug in the study, there were other potentially important complications that were not mentioned.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

 The story mentioned that the results reported on were from a phase III clinical trial; it included information about the number of affected eyes included in the study, and the impact on vision.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

 The story did not engage in overt disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

 Several experts in the field were quoted in this story.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

 In presenting the outcome of the study, the story mentioned in passing treatments currently used for treating diabetic macular edema.  The story also mentioned the existence of another drug, Avastin, which was reported as working the same way as the study medication.  (A more accurate description comparing Avastin and Lucentis is that they contain the nearly identical active ingredient but the production methods are a little different.)

It would have been nice to mention that there is an on-going trial comparing the effectiveness of these two medications for the treatment of macular degeneration (not the condition which was the disease in the study reported on.) 

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

 The story was crystal clear that the drug reported on, Lucentis, is available as it is FDA approved for another condition; the story also mentioned that it is not yet FDA approved for treatment of diabetic macular edema.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

 The story was very clear that this was a new use for a medication that is already on the market.  The story provided some insight that the company underwriting the costs of this study had a very similar but less expensive drug which was FDA approved for other use.  It would have been useful to include a little more information comparing the two medications.  It might also have been nice to include some information about how the drug studied works as compared to laser treatment, the current standard.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

 Does not appear to rely on a press release.

Total Score: 10 of 10 Satisfactory

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