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Vision improvement was nearly identical for either drug. Giving either drug less often produced slightly less vision improvement -- reading two fewer letters on a vision chart, something one researcher compared to a smudge on one's glasses.
"This is an extremely small difference," Sieving of the federal Eye Institute said.
Study leader Maureen Maguire at the University of Pennsylvania agreed.
Giving either drug as needed "is certainly a viable option" that spares many elderly patients the burden of monthly shots, she said.
Adverse events, mostly hospitalizations, were more common among Avastin users, but many of these were for side effects not thought to be related to the drugs, and the study is too small to give a clear picture on these.
"We saw more adverse events when we gave less drug," and don't know what that means, said study co-leader Dr. Daniel Martin of the Cleveland Clinic's Cole Eye Institute.
No major differences were seen in big problems like heart attacks, strokes and deaths.
In a statement, Genentech said that proving Avastin's benefit for the eye disease would take "substantial resources and years of clinical development," and that patients' best interests are better served by exploring new medicines.
"We still believe that Lucentis is the most appropriate treatment," because it was specifically designed for use in the eye, said Genentech's ophthalmology chief, Dr. Anthony Adamis.
Although Genentech sells both drugs, PDL BioPharma Inc. gets royalty payments on Lucentis, and Novartis AG has exclusive rights on it outside the U.S.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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