Patients suffering from a leading cause of blindness will from today have access to a new treatment option following the UK launch of Bayer Healthcare's Eylea.

Eylea (aflibercept), also known as VEGF Trap-Eye, was approved in Europe just last week, and its availability means that patients with wet age-related macular degeneration have a licensed alternative to the current treatment - Novartis' Lucentis (ranizumab).

According to Bayer, Eylea is as effective as Lucentis in treating wet AMD, but has the added benefit of needing fewer hospital visits (every two months versus every month), offering extra convenience which may give the newcomer a competitive edge.

This could also help ease the burden on National Health Service resources, which is particularly important as the number of patients with the condition is on the rise and demand on eye clinics is already high, the firm notes.

"A fixed dose injection with Eylea every two months with no monthly monitoring inbetween is a welcome help in solving capacity problems," said Professor Paulo Stanga, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital. "It could help us with planning our service and make life easier for patients and their families," he added.

All eyes will now be on cost regulator the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which is currently carrying out an appraisal of the drug - and a Patient Access Scheme offered by Bayer - to determine whether it offers the NHS value for money. It's decision is expected in August next year.