Cost regulators for the National Health Service in England and Wales are recommending Allergan’s eye implant Ozurdex (dexamethasone) as an option to treat diabetic macular oedema.

Preliminary recommendations by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence endorse use of Ozurdex as a treatment option, but only in people where the implant is to be used in an eye with an intraocular (pseudophakic) lens, and their diabetic macular oedema does not respond to non-corticosteroid treatment or it is unsuitable.

Allergan’s implant is injected into the eye once every six months, and works by suppressing inflammation and preventing oedema forming in the eye. It reduces plasma leakage from blood vessels and inhibits the release of inflammatory compounds that cause eye damage.

According to Carole Longson, Health Technology Evaluation Centre Director at NICE, that the condition affects around 189,000 people with diabetes in the UK, 39% of whom are eligible for treatment, and she noted that the decision “will be welcome news to both patients and healthcare professionals alike”.

Allergan hopes for wider coverage

Imran Lodhi, Allergan UK medical director, said the positive recommendation "is an important step to making Ozurdex more widely available...for this subgroup of DMO patients". However, he noted that there remains a significant group "who still have their natural lens, with a high unmet clinical need that are excluded from this draft recommendation".

He was referring to patients who have not responded to, or are unsuitable for, non-corticosteroid therapy, notably anti-VEGFs or laser. Ozurdex "is licensed for use in these patients, so we will continue working to broaden access to this effective treatment", Dr Lodhi added.

The NHS list price for a 700-microgram implant and applicator is £870.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium is due to publish advice on Ozurdex in May.