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Watchdog urges use of eye drug

The country's drugs watchdog has recommended that a medicine used to combat the effects of a devastating eye disease should be made available to thousands of people on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has backed the drug Lucentis after a U-turn on draft guidance published last year.

The recommendation of the drug, used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), was welcomed by the Royal National Institute for the Blind.

AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK and destroys the central region of the retina, the macula, leading to progressive loss of sight.

It comes in two forms - wet and dry - with the dry form being far more common. However, the wet type is the more aggressive and accounts for about 90% of blindness caused by the condition.

The final guidance, which applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, recommends Lucentis (also called ranibizumab) for treating wet AMD. The drug is already approved in Scotland.

In December, NICE dropped one of the most controversial aspects of its draft guidance, which suggested that patients would need to lose sight in one eye before the other could be treated.

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