HealthDay News — Concerns that eye injections of the drug bevacizumab increase the risk of endophthalmitis may be unfounded, a new study suggests. The U.S. National Institutes of Health funded the study, which was published online in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Researchers analyzed insurance claims data from across the United States to compare the use of bevacizumab (Avastin; ~$50 per injection) to treat retinal diseases with the much more expensive drug ranibizumab (Lucentis; ~$2,000 per treatment). 

The study was conducted in response to reports of bevacizumab-related eye infections that led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to propose tight restrictions on the use of the drug for eye conditions. But the findings showed that patients treated with bevacizumab do not have a higher risk of endophthalmitis than those treated with ranibizumab, the study authors said.

The researchers looked at 296,565 injections of bevacizumab and 87,245 injections of ranibizumab. They found the rates of endophthalmitis were 0.017% for bevacizumab and 0.025% for ranibizumab.

“Our analysis of a national data set shows that the risk for endophthalmitis is no higher with Avastin and hints that there may actually be a lower endophthalmitis risk compared to Lucentis, so the proposed FDA restrictions for Avastin might have the unintended consequence of increasing the infection risk for patients,” study author Brian VanderBeek, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, said in a university news release. 

The American Academy of Ophthalmology opposes the proposed new FDA rules. “The findings from our study support their stance,” VanderBeek said.

Reference

1. Vanderbeek Al, et al. JAMA Opthal. 2015; doi: 10.1001/jamaopthalmol.2015.2556.