Swiss drug major Novartis says that Lucentis, its treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration and a leading cause of blindness, has been approved by the European Union.

Lucentis (ranibizumab) is already approved for use in patients with wet AMD in Switzerland, India and the United States and Novartis expects regulatory decisions in Australia and Canada to come in the first half of this year.

Lucentis, which was developed by the Swiss firm and Genentech, as been tipped as a potential market leader in the AMD treatment market, because of data showing that it can not only halt progression of the disease, but also improve vision. It will compete with Pfizer and OSI Pharmaceuticals' Macugen (pegaptanib) in a market that is already dominated by Novartis' own Visudyne (verteporfin).

The new drug is proving to be incredibly successful and contributed $217 million in only its second full quarter since coming onto the US market to Genentech’s coffers. That figure smashed analysts' consensus estimates of around $150-$175 million.