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New treatment for leading cause of vision loss


MEDIA RELEASE

Date 15th November 2007

Lucentis® new treatment for the leading cause of severe vision loss now available in New Zealand

• Lucentis the first drug to improve vision in patients with “wet” age-related macular degeneration (AMD), setting a new treatment standard for this degenerative eye disease

• Vision improvement associated with Lucentis treatment correlates with a return of everyday activities such as reading, driving, and identifying faces

• NZ Case histories available, please call Jennifer Boyes (09 367 1133)

Lucentis® (ranibizumab) a new treatment option for patients with the “wet” form of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 50 in the western world, is now available in New Zealand. Up to 1,300 New Zealanders are affected by this form of the disease every year.

Auckland ophthalmologist and retinal specialist, Dr Dianne Sharp explained: `Lucentis is a very exciting development in the management of wet AMD, as it is the first treatment which has been shown in clinical trials to improve vision. With early recognition of this type of AMD and appropriate management, patients may regain the ability to perform everyday tasks such as reading and driving a car preserving their independence and quality of life.’

Wellington consultant ophthalmologist Dr Kolin Foo added: `Lucentis is a new drug that has revolutionalised the treatment of wet macular degeneration. Lucentis has been proven in large clinical trials to be effective in the treatment of all types of wet macular degeneration. It is the first time that a drug has been shown to not only prevent further loss of vision but to improve vision in patients affected by wet macular degeneration.’

AMD is a degenerative eye disease that affects the macula – the central part of the retina at the back of the eye that is responsible for the “straight ahead” central vision necessary for everyday activities like reading, driving, telling time or identifying faces.

There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. Wet AMD accounts for about 15% of all AMD cases, but the majority of vision loss. It is associated with the growth of abnor;mal new vessels under the macula that are fragile and leak fluid and blood. If not treated, scar tissue develops that destroys the macula and hence central vision.

Novartis New Zealand has applied to PHARMAC for funding.


About Lucentis®
Lucentis® (ranibizumab) has been shown in clinical trials to maintain and improve vision and vision-related quality of life in people suffering from neovascular, or “wet,” age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A therapeutic antibody fragment designed specifically for treating conditions of the eye, Lucentis blocks all known biologically active forms of vascular endothelial cell growth factor A (VEGF-A), the molecule believed to be a major underlying cause of wet AMD. Lucentis was developed by Genentech and Novartis Pharma AG. Genentech has the commercial rights to Lucentis in the United States, while Novartis Pharma AG has exclusive rights in the rest of the world.

About Novartis Ophthalmics
With worldwide headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, the Novartis Ophthalmics Business Unit is a global leader in research, development and manufacturing of leading ophthalmic pharmaceuticals that assist in the treatment of age-related macular degeneration, eye inflammation, glaucoma, ocular allergies and other disorders of the eye. Novartis Ophthalmics products are available in more than 110 different countries. Novartis products are made in Switzerland, France, the United States and Canada.
About Novartis
Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) is a world leader in offering medicines to protect health, treat disease and improve well-being. Our goal is to discover, develop and successfully market innovative products to treat patients, ease suffering and enhance the quality of life. Novartis is the only company with leadership positions in both patented and generic pharmaceuticals. We are strengthening our medicine-based portfolio, which is focused on strategic growth platforms in innovation-driven pharmaceuticals, high-quality and low-cost generics, human vaccines and leading self-medication OTC brands. In 2005, the Group's businesses achieved net sales of USD 32.2 billion and net income of USD 6.1 billion. Approximately USD 4.8 billion was invested in R&D. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 99,000 people and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.novartis.com.

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