Connecticut patients being treated for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) with eye injections should be aware that, last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a release alerting health care professionals to a cluster of serious eye infections suffered by patients in Florida and Tennessee who received eye injections of repackaged Avastin (bevacizumab). Avastin is approved for treatment of various cancers, but used off-label in smaller doses by many ophthalmologists to treat wet AMD due to its substantially lower cost than alternatives ($50/dose vs. $2,000/dose for Lucentis). Tragically, some of the patients were blinded.
As explained on EyeDocNews (a blog covering new treatments for eye conditions), in order to convert Avastin from a cancer drug to a wet AMD drug, pharmacies must repackage the vials into much smaller doses. If that repackagaging process is not handled with proper aseptic techniques, product sterility can be compromised, which puts patients at risk for microbial infections.