FDA Approves New Treatment for Macular Degeneration

04/13/00    Portland, Ore.

Casey Eye Institute and Devers Eye Institute Now Offering Sight-Saving Therapy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Visudyne therapy for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration--or AMD, the leading cause of legal blindness in Americans over 50 years old. The treatment is now available at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health Sciences University and Devers Eye Institute at Legacy Health System, both of which participated in the clinical trials of the drug.

"Approval of this treatment means hope for the thousands of people who are losing their vision to this disease, but have been unable to participate in trials," said Michael Klein, M.D., professor of ophthalmology in the OHSU School of Medicine, director of the Casey Eye Institute's Macular Degeneration Center and a member of the Devers Eye Institute's retina service.

AMD causes the loss of central vision through the formation of abnormal blood vessels that grow across the central part of the retina, called the macula. These vessels leak fluid and eventually create scar tissue, which destroys vision in that part of the eye. People suffering from AMD have trouble reading, driving and recognizing faces. About 200,000 Americans develop advanced stages of the disease each year.

Visudyne therapy is a two-step procedure in which the drug is injected into a patient's arm, from where it travels to the eye. Minutes later the drug is activated by directing a non-thermal laser beam into the patient's eye. Because a low-intensity laser is used, only abnormal blood vessels are destroyed, sparing the surrounding healthy cells and tissue.

Visudyne was co-developed by CIBA Vision, a unit of Novartis, and QLT Phototherapeutics.