This site is intended for health professionals only

Sight-saving drugs "not available"

New treatments that could drastically cut the number of people going blind in Northern Ireland are not being made available to the patients who need them, a charity claims.

Campaigners fear it means some people are experiencing a "postcode lottery" as sufferers in Scotland are successfully receiving jabs for wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

The new sight-saving drugs - Lucentis and Macugen - belong to a group of chemicals known as anti-VEGFs (anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors).

These drugs treat the underlying cause of wet AMD and are given to patients via a course of injections.

More than 700 people suffer from the condition in the province every year, but even though funding was made available in March, the Royal National Institute of Blind People said many people are still missing out.

Northern Ireland spokesman Shane Logan said: "Patients across the country are experiencing great difficulty getting treated.

"In Scotland, both drugs have been approved at the highest level and a great deal of effort is being devoted to establishing a comprehensive network of hospitals that have well resourced services to ensure patients can readily access new treatments."

But he added: "In Northern Ireland only a small minority of patients have been able to benefit from these groundbreaking treatments due to a lack of resources.

"Northern Ireland should take a leaf out of the Scottish book and ensure that we have the right resources in Belfast and Londonderry to make these treatments available now."

Royal National Institute of Blind People

Copyright © PA Business 2007