Macular Degeneration

Head-to-head eye drug results confirmed for May 1

Overview CATT Study


Head-to-head eye drug results confirmed for May 1

Wed Apr 20, 2011

* Lucentis vs Avastin study to feature at ARVO congress

* Data may appear in journal simultaneously or earlier

* Lucentis at risk if far cheaper Avastin proves as good

LONDON, April 20 (Reuters) - Results of a key study comparing Roche (ROG.VX) and Novartis's (NOVN.VX) eye treatment Lucentis with low doses of cancer drug Avastin will, as predicted, be presented at the ARVO medical meeting on May 1.

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) said on its website ( that researchers would report the findings from the so-called CATT study on the opening day of its annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Industry sources said the study was also likely to appear in a leading medical journal -- probably the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) -- either simultaneously or slightly before the ARVO presentation. Data from the NEJM is published online each Wednesday, suggesting a possible release on April 27.

Billions of dollars of Lucentis sales hinge on the head-to-head comparison. If Avastin -- another Roche drug -- proves as good as Lucentis it will offer an alternative for age-related eye disease at a fraction of the cost.

Industry sources had previously said they expected the study to feature as a "late-breaking" presentation during the May 1-5 ARVO meeting. [ID:nLDE72S1T6]

The trial is sponsored by the U.S. National Eye Institute.

The outcome of the U.S. trial is important not only for the two Swiss drugmakers but also Germany's Bayer (BAYGn.DE), which is developing a rival eye drug called VEGF Trap-Eye with Regeneron (REGN.O).

Most analysts expect Avastin to prove as effective as Lucentis in the 1,200-patient test, partly because the trial allows a generous margin for measuring non-inferiority. But there is expected to be considerable debate about the relative safety of the two products.

Roche sells Lucentis in the United States, while Novartis sells it elsewhere. Last year, the two firms each generated around $1.5 billion in Lucentis sales.

Avastin is not licensed for use in the eye but it works in a similar way to Lucentis, and the tiny amount needed for an eye injection costs only around $50, against a U.S. price of $1,950 for Lucentis. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Erica Billingham)