Cost regulators for the National Health Service in England and Wales have issued final guidance recommending Novartis' Lucentis as a treatment for a common eye condition called macular oedema.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has endorsed the use of Lucentis to treat macular oedema - which affects a patient's ability to see detail and colour - caused by retinal vein occlusion, when the vein to the retina or one of its branches is blocked.

Lucentis, which is given by injection into the eye, works by preventing the production of VEGF, which can decrease the oedema and limit visual loss and/or improve vision.

Original guidance published in November 2011 actually rejected the drug for use on the NHS, and NICE's current endorsement dependent upon the provision by Novartis of a patient access scheme (PAS), the details of which are being kept under wraps.

The PAS has helped boost the drug's cost-effectiveness in treating central retinal vein occlusion, with its Incremental Cost-Effectiveness Ratio (ICER) of £26,200 per Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY) gained compared with best supportive care falling within the normal threshold of what is considered value for money for the NHS. 

The Institute has also recommended Lucentis as a treatment option following branch retinal vein occlusion, but only if standard laser treatment has failed or is not suitable. This is because the most plausible ICER for the drug compared with best supportive care was in excess of £44,800 per QALY gained, considerably above the cost-effective ratio. 

Cost regulators in Scotland also backed funding for the drug earlier this month.