If your eye doctor recently recommended Lucentis for your macular degeneration, you might want to read this blog. According to a NYT report, Genentech, the maker of Lucentis, has started offering a special “secret” rebate to eye doctors who prescribe the injections rather than a cheaper alternative.
Under the program, which took effect on October 1, medical practices can earn up to tens of thousands of dollars if they use large amounts of Lucentis, and if they show increased usage each quarter of a year. The NYT obtained a confidential copy of the company’s “secret” document sharing this information with eye doctors across the country.
Lucentis is mainly used to treat macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. It was approved by the FDA in 2006 and costs about $2,000 per injection. Some patients with macular degeneration require eye injections as often as once a month. Avastin is the competing drug to Lucentis, and is also a Genentech product. So while Genentech isn’t necessarily knocking out any competition, Avastin is much cheaper to treat macular degeneration. Avastin was originally designed to treat eye cancer, but eye doctors have discovered that it is just as effective as Lucentis when used to treat macular degeneration. Instead of a $2,000 price tag, Aventis costs about $20-$50 per injection, saving Medicare hundreds of millions of dollars per year. However, it is legal to offer such rebates–as long as they follow certain guidelines. Nevertheless, some eye doctors are concerned about the ethical implications of the rebate program.