AMD Drug Helps 95% of Patients
Shows Impressive Results in Phase 3 Trial.
Genentech, Inc. announced that the phase 3 MARINA clinical study of the investigational
drug Lucentis met its primary efficacy endpoint of maintaining vision in patients
with wet AMD. In a preliminary report on study results, the company said that approximately
95% of patients maintained or improved vision (defined as a loss of less than 15
letters in visual acuity) at 1 year when treated with Lucentis injections compared
to approximately 62% of those treated in the control arm.
Patients treated with Lucentis
for 12 months had, on average, a significant improvement in visual acuity compared
to their visual acuity at study entry, an important secondary endpoint, while the
control group demonstrated a substantial decrease in mean visual acuity from baseline
to 12 months. More complete 1-year data from the trial will be presented at the
23rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS) this summer.
The Lucentis data were by far the
most impressive to come from any phase 3 study of a therapy for wet AMD. The stock
of Eyetech Pharmaceuticals, the developer of the already-approved wet AMD drug
dropped about 45% to $12.95 a share on May 24, the day after the Lucentis results
were announced. In phase 3 trials, Macugen was able to improve visual acuity in
only a small percentage of patients. However, in a statement Eyetech noted that
data on ongoing Lucentis trials are incomplete and that the patient populations
in the clinical studies for the 2 drugs may not be comparable.
Lucentis data exceeded our expectations because they show, for the first time in
a phase 3 trial, a statistically significant improvement in vision for patients
in a disease that has remained chronic and progressive despite current treatment
options," said Hal Barron, MD, Genentech senior vice president, development and
chief medical officer.
Genentech said a preliminary analysis
of the data showed that adverse events were similar to those seen in earlier trials
of Lucentis. Common side effects occurring in the Lucentis arms more frequently
than in the control arms were mild to moderate and included conjunctival hemorrhage,
eye pain, and vitreous floaters. Serious ocular adverse events occurring more frequently
in Lucentis-treated patients were rare (<1%) and included uveitis and
There appeared to be no imbalance in serious nonocular adverse events.
In another Lucentis clinical trial,
Genentech said that the phase 1/2 FOCUS study of the drug met its primary efficacy
endpoint of maintaining vision in patients with wet AMD when used in combination
with Visudyne photodynamic therapy (PDT). Genentech said that approximately 90%
of patients maintained or improved vision when treated with the combination of Lucentis
and PDT, compared to approximately 68% of those treated in the control arm of PDT
alone. Patients treated with Lucentis plus PDT at 12 months had, on average,
a significant improvement in visual acuity compared to visual acuity at study entry,
an important secondary endpoint, while the PDT-alone group demonstrated a decrease
in mean visual acuity from baseline to 12 months.
A preliminary analysis of the FOCUS
data showed there was an increased risk of uveitis in patients treated with Lucentis
in combination with PDT compared to patients treated with PDT alone. An amendment
to the study protocol was made after data-safety-monitoring identified this imbalance.
Lucentis is a humanized antibody
fragment developed at Genentech and designed to bind and inhibit Vascular Endothelial
Growth Factor A (VEGF-A), a protein that is believed to play a critical role in
The MARINA study is a phase 3 clinical
trial of 716 patients in the United States with minimally classic or occult wet
AMD who were randomized 2:1 to receive intravitreal Lucentis injections or a control
regimen. The control regimen consisted of a sham injection. Patients treated with
Lucentis were further randomized to receive either a 0.3 mg or 0.5 mg dose of Lucentis
once a month for 2 years. Results from the phase 3 ANCHOR study of Lucentis, comparing the effectiveness of 2 different doses of the drug, are expected to be released in the fourth quarter of 2005. Some industry analysts anticipate that Lucentis could be approved by the FDA sometime late next year.
Novartis Pharmaceuticals is Genentech�s partner for the international marketing of Lucentis.
In the May/June Issue of Retinal
Physician, the article "Verteporfin Patient Management Update" by Caroline R.
MD, should have stated that verteprofin is the only photodynamic agent
thus far approved to treat CNV in ophthalmology.
Study: Macugen Effective
Reduced Key Signs of the Disease.
Eyetech Pharmaceuticals, Inc. said that imaging data from a phase 2 study using
Macugen therapy for diabetic macular edema (DME) showed a reversal of capillary
microaneurysms, retinal ischemia and neovascularization all important signs
of diabetic retinopathy.
In the study, researchers conducted
a retrospective analysis of 69 patients who had recognized and gradable diabetic
retinopathy at both baseline and week 36. Patients treated with Macugen 0.3 mg therapy
showed an improvement in the ETDRS diabetic retinopathy severity scale, a standard
for monitoring the progression of retinopathy. At week 36, 11 of the 39 Macugen-dosed
patients showed improvement of greater than or equal to 1 step vs. 4 of 30 in the
sham group. In addition, 5 0f the 39 Macugen patients showed an improvement of more
than 2 steps at week 36 compared to 1 of 30 in the sham group.
Macugen is already approved for
the treatment of wet AMD.
"Researchers reviewed photographs
of the retina and noted evidence of regression of retinal neovascularization and
other signs of diabetic retinopathy in patients treated with Macugen. We also found
an improvement on the diabetic retinopathy severity scale, which suggests that Macugen
may have helped slow or even reverse the progression of the disease," said Larry
Singerman, MD, clinical professor of Ophthalmology at Case University School of
Medicine and president of Retina Associates of Cleveland. "While no final conclusions
can be drawn from these preliminary and limited data as to the efficacy of Macugen
in diabetic retinopathy, we are encouraged by the potential implication of these
findings, which are consistent with our current understanding of the role of VEGF
in diabetic retinopathy," he concluded.
As previously announced, Eyetech
and its partner Pfizer plan to conduct a pivotal phase 2/3 DME clinical trial that
will include the diabetic retinopathy score as a prespecified secondary endpoint.
This trial is expected to begin in the second half of 2005.
In a related development, Health
Canada granted approval for Macugen for the treatment of subfoveal choroidal neovascularization
secondary to wet AMD. Eyetech and Pfizer copromote Macugen in the US. Eyetech has
granted Pfizer the exclusive rights to commercialize Macugen in countries outside
the US, including Canada, pursuant to a royalty-bearing licensing agreement.
Also, Eyetech has raised its
projection for Macugen sales for all of 2005 from a range of $135 to $150 million to a range of $175 to $190 million.
The company said that 99 of its top 100 Macugen accounts have already reordered the product.
Retaane is "approvable." Alcon, Inc. said that the FDA recently issued an approvable
letter for its New Drug Application (NDA) for Retaane 15 mg, an investigational
treatment for preserving the vision of patients with wet AMD.
Industry analyst Ted Huber
of Wachovia Securities said final approval will almost certainly require another
Alcon said it will meet with
the FDA to discuss the approvable letter, the clinical studies submitted with the
NDA and other ongoing clinical studies for Retaane to determine the steps necessary
to gain final approval for the wet AMD indication.
"We believe that Retaane suspension
has a positive impact on the vision of patients with AMD. As part of our mission
to preserve and restore vision, we are continuing with all of our development efforts
for this drug, which we believe will ultimately lead to approval," said Stella Robertson,
PhD, Alcon vice president, ophthalmology research and development.
Retaane is administered with
a blunt-tipped, curved cannula to deliver the drug behind the eye without puncturing
the eyeball. Retaane is administered once every 6 months. No clinically relevant
side effects related to the medication or application procedure were reported in
Alcon has conducted extensive
clinical research into Retaane over the last 5 years. The company has reported clinical
study results from 2 pivotal studies that formed the basis of its clinical package
for its NDA. The first study demonstrated that after 1 year 79% of patients
treated with Retaane maintained their vision, compared to 53% of those who received
a sham application. The second study demonstrated that after 1 year the visual outcomes
in patients who received Retaane were not statistically different from those of
patients who received photodynamic therapy with Visudyne.
ASCs Win Major Victory
But Some Retinal Procedures
Still Await Approval.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has restored to the ambulatory
surgery center (ASC) procedures list 95 of the 100 services and all of the
ophthalmic surgical codes that were proposed for deletion late last year.
This reversal in CMS policy is consistent with the recommendations of the Ophthalmic
Outpatient Surgery Society (OOSS), the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and
the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS). The views of these
organizations were presented to CMS in formal comments to and meetings with
In November 2004, CMS had proposed
to "update" the ASC procedures list by adding 25 additional ASC procedures, but
deleting 100 service codes from, the current list. Had the proposal been finalized
as proposed, Medicare-certified ASCs would no longer receive facility payments for
16 ophthalmic surgical procedures, including: 68340 (repair of sympblepharon); 11444,
11446, and 11644 (lesion excisions); 13131, 13132, and 13152 (repairs of wound or
lesion); 14000, 14060, and 14061 (skin tissue rearrangements); 65800 and 65805 (paracentesis
of anterior chamber of eye); 67141 (prophylaxis of retinal detachment); and, 68810
(nasolacrimal duct probe).
CMS also added to the ASC procedures
list several ophthalmic surgical services that have recently received CPT codes,
including 66711 (ciliary endoscopic ablation).
Though enthusiastic regarding CMS
acceptance of many of its recommendations, OOSS attorney Michael Romansky said the
organization remains unhappy that the agency continues to refuse to add to the ASC
procedures list a number of ophthalmic surgical services which OOSS says can be
safely and effectively furnished to Medicare beneficiaries in the ASC environment.
These include: 65855 (trabeculoplasty); 67105 (retina repair, photocoagulation);
67145 (prophylaxis of retinal detachment, photocoagulation); 67210 (destruction
of retinal lesions, photocoagulation); 67221 (destruction of retinal lesions, photodynamic therapy), and 67228 (destruction of extensive or progressive retinopathy, photocoagulation).
Romansky says OOSS will continue to seek enactment of legislation that will abolish the ASC procedures list and replace it instead with a list of those procedures which may not be clinically appropriate for the ASC environment.
Retinal Physician, Issue: July 2005