Novartis therapy Lucentis® recommended for approval in EU

NovartisNovartis has received a positive opinion from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) for Lucentis® (ranibizumab) for the treatment of patients with visual impairment due to diabetic macular edema (DME), a leading cause of blindness in the working-age population in most developed countries.

"Lucentis was designed specifically for use in the eye, and its efficacy and safety have now been demonstrated in patients suffering loss of vision due to diabetic macular edema through a robust program of clinical trials," said David Epstein, Division Head of Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

The submission was supported by data from two Novartis-funded clinical trials, RESTORE and RESOLVE, which showed that Lucentis was superior in providing rapid and sustained visual acuity gain versus sham (dummy therapy) or laser therapy, the current standard of care. The RESTORE study showed patients treated with Lucentis alone or with Lucentis plus laser therapy achieved an average 5.9 letters and 5.5 letters gain in visual acuity at 12 months, respectively, compared to laser-treated patients as measured on a standard ETDRS eye chart.

The RESOLVE study showed that Lucentis-treated patients achieved an average 11.7 letters gain in visual acuity at 12 months compared to sham-treated patients, some of whom received laser treatment.

The pivotal data from RESTORE and RESOLVE are further supported by results of an independent US study conducted by the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network (, showing that at one year nearly 50% of patients' eyes treated with Lucentis and laser therapy improved their visual acuity by 10 letters or more, compared to 28% with laser alone. In addition, the study demonstrated superior gains in visual acuity among Lucentis-treated patients up to two years.

Lucentis was generally well tolerated in clinical studies, either when given as monotherapy or when combined with laser treatment. Its safety profile was consistent with that previously reported in large controlled clinical trials, and in rigorous monitoring since Lucentis was first approved for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Lucentis is currently licensed in more than 85 countries for the treatment of wet AMD.

Diabetic macular edema (DME) is a consequence of diabetic retinopathy - the most common diabetic eye complication, characterized by changes in the blood vessels of the retina - to the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye. In patients with DME, leakage from these abnormal blood vessels occurs in the central portion of the retina, called the macula. Because this part of the eye is responsible for sharp central vision, DME can lead to significant visual impairment. Visual impairment due to DME affects approximately 1-3% of patients with diabetes, and DME is a leading cause of blindness in the working-age population in most developed countries.

Lucentis offers an entirely new pharmacological approach to treatment compared to the current standard of care for DME that involves the use of laser burns to stop the capillary leakage and to reduce swelling. Lucentis is an antibody fragment that is injected into the eye and acts by neutralizing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that is known to increase vascular permeability, resulting in capillary leakage and macular edema in patients with diabetes.

Lucentis was developed by Genentech and Novartis. Genentech has the commercial rights to Lucentis in the United States where Lucentis is also approved for the treatment of macular edema following retinal vein occlusion (RVO). In addition, Genentech is conducting two Phase III studies, RISE and RIDE, in patients with diabetic macular edema. The results are expected in 2011. Novartis has exclusive rights in the rest of the world and plans to file in the European Union for approval of Lucentis for the treatment of visual impairment due to macular edema following RVO.

About Novartis
Novartis provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Focused solely on healthcare, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines, diagnostic tools and consumer health products. Novartis is the only company with leading positions in these areas. In 2009, the Group's continuing operations achieved net sales of USD 44.3 billion, while approximately USD 7.5 billion was invested in R&D activities throughout the Group. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 100,000 full-time-equivalent associates and operate in more than 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit