Avastin Injections Linked To Eye Infections And Blindness In The Miami Area

In July, 12 patients in the Miami area suffered eye infections from Streptococcus bacteria after being administered Avastin eye injections. Avastin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a cancer drug; however, many doctors use Avastin off-label to treat wet AMD (age-related macular degeneration). Off-label use means an FDA-approved drug is prescribed for a condition it has not been approved to treat. Some of the affected patients lost all remaining vision as a result of the infection. In addition to the Miami incident, four patients at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Nashville suffered Avastin-related eye infections earlier this year, and in August, five patients at a Los Angeles VA hospital lost all or part of their vision in their Avastin-injected eye. When a defective drug harms patients, they can turn to an experienced Sarasota injury attorney to protect their rights.

In the Miami incident, the infection-causing Avastin injections all came from the same compounding pharmacy. Avastin is distributed in vials intended for cancer treatment, its FDA-approved use, so when it is used off-label to treat wet AMD, the vials must be divided into smaller doses. The smaller doses are then repackaged into syringes that doctors use to inject the drug into a patient’s eye. Dividing and repackaging the drug requires extra handling that increases the risk for bacterial contamination.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced in September it was suspending off-label Avastin use pending an investigation into the reported eye infections and blindness. According to a recent article by the New York Times, many doctors believe the infections are isolated incidents resultant ofsloppy pharmacy procedures as opposed to an issue with the drug itself. But while fears of blindness persist, many doctors are opting to use Lucentis, an alternative wet AMD treatment, rather than risk amedical malpractice lawsuit. Some pharmacies are also becoming reluctant to support Avastin’s off-label use. In Los Angeles, for instance, a pharmacy supplying Avastin injections to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center abruptly abandoned its off-label Avastin operations.

Avastin’s popularity as a wet AMD treatment is tied to its low cost of around $50 per injection. The alternative is Lucentis — a drug approved specifically for the treatment of wet AMD that is produced by the same company that manufactures Avastin — and it costs around $2,000 per injection. To illustrate the significance of this cost difference, consider this: The New York Times reports that in 2008 and 2009, Medicare spent $1.1 billion on 696,927 Lucentis injections, while it spent only $40 million on 936,382 Avastin injections.

As the Avastin controversy continues, patients should be vigilant in reporting any Avastin complications and contact a qualified Sarasota injury lawyer if they are harmed by the drug. Whether you are injured by a defective drug or by a pharmacy’s mishandling of a generally safe drug, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have a claim against the drug company that let a defective product go to market, or you may have amedical malpractice claim against a negligent doctor or pharmacist.

Categories: Children's Injuries