Drug moves past hurdle

The drug treats one type of macular degeneration.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A drug that attacks a major form of elderly blindness passed a key hurdle Friday as the government's scientific advisers decided that it poses no significant risks.
Advisers to the Food and Drug Administration did not vote formally whether Eyetech Pharmaceuticals' drug, Macugen, should be approved, but eye doctors on the panel said they were impressed by the research.
The FDA will consider those opinions as it evaluates the product.
Macular degeneration
Macugen is aimed at treating one type of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among older Americans. The disease steals sight from the center of the eye outward by destroying the macula, light-sensitive tissue in the center of the retina.
Macugen is for the "wet" type of AMD, in which new blood vessels form behind the retina, then leak and rapidly destroy sight. It afflicts an estimated 1.6 million older Americans.
As baby boomers gray, often outliving their eyes, an estimated 6.3 million are expected to suffer from wet macular degeneration by 2030.
Only one treatment currently exists, a light-activated drug that helps destroy abnormal blood vessels.
Macugen works at the molecular level to slow the growth of new blood vessels by blocking an overactive protein.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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