Injections in the eye may retard a disease that causes blindness.
THE QUESTION The "wet" form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) gradually robs older people of their vision as extra blood vessels in the eye leak and form scar tissue. Might a drug that curbs the abnormal growth of these blood vessels effectively slow or stop the progress of wet AMD?
THIS STUDY randomly assigned about 1,200 people with wet AMD to receive injections of Macugen (pegaptanib) or a placebo in one eye nine times over 48 weeks. At the end of the treatment period, 23 percent of those given the placebo injections had experienced severe vision loss, compared with 10 percent of those injected with the drug.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? People with wet AMD, which affects about 15 percent of those with AMD but accounts for 90 percent of the severe vision loss caused by the disease. An estimated 1.6 million Americans have advanced stages of AMD.
CAVEATS The long-term safety of Macugen has not been tested. Side effects of the treatment included eye pain and inflammation in about one-third of participants. The study was funded by Eyetech Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer, which together developed and market the drug; the authors were Eyetech employees or consultants. A commentary published with the study said the results were not better than those for photodynamic laser therapy, also approved as an AMD treatment method.
BOTTOM LINE Anyone with wet AMD may want to ask a doctor about Macugen injections.
FIND THIS STUDY Dec. 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine; abstract available online at www.nejm.org.
LEARN MORE ABOUT macular degeneration at www.nei.nih.govand www.amd.org.
Birth control pills seem less effective in overweight women.
THE QUESTION As many as 400,000 American women who use oral contraceptives become pregnant each year. Might a woman's weight hinder the effectiveness of the pill?