The media is reporting that five patients being treated at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have been blinded following eye injections of contaminated Avastin that had been repackaged into smaller doses.
The news comes following reports of serious eye infections suffered by patients in Florida and Tennesse from from contaminated Avastin. The reports led to an alert last week by the FDA warning health professionals about the risks of improperly repackaged Avastin.
While Avastin is approved for treatment of various cancers, it is also used off-label by many ophthalmologists to treat wet AMD due to its substantially lower cost ($50/dose) than the alternative, Lucentis ($2,000/dose). As explained on EyeDocNews, a blog covering the latest treatments for various eye conditions, to convert vials of Avastin intended for cancer treatments into vials suitable for eye injections, pharmacies divide the vials into smaller doses. However, when the repackaging is not handled correctly, sterility can be compromised and lead to infections in injected eyes.
Patients and doctors can report any side effects or product quality problems with Avastin via the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting program.