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Lucentis rebate offer is hot topic

According an article in the November 3, 2010 edition ofThe New York Times, the pharmaceutical company, Genentech is offering a secret rebate program to select ophthalmologists to increase usage of the company's pricey drug Lucentis. Lucentis is primarily used to treat age-related macular degeneration which is the leading cause of blindness in senior citizens. However, it is cost prohibitive to many patients with its $2,000 per injection. Many ophthalmologists prefer to treat their patients with the much cheaper Avastin (also manufactured by Genentech). Avastin is only FDA approved to treat cancer but many retina specialists say it is effective in treating wet AMD. The cost for each injection ranges from $20 to $50. While rebate programs are common practice in the pharmaceutical industry, many doctors voice ethical concerns about the arrangement. Critics argue that it is nothing more than bribery to get doctors to use the more expensive drug when treating patients. Doctors will be keeping a watchful eye on the results of the clinical trial which will directly compare Avastin and Lucentis. The results of the trial will most likely have a greater impact upon doctors' usage of the drugs than the rebate.* Andrea Schumann Staff Writer

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