Avastin is part of a class of drugs that block the growth of abnormal blood vessels, which is the cause of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Avastin is also used in some cases to treat macular edema, or swelling of the macula, often associated with diabetic retinopathy.

Avastin was initially approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for different types of cancer. Its use to treat eye disease is considered an “off-label” use. The FDA allows the use of drugs for conditions other than those for which it is approved if doctors are well informed about the product and proof has been shown of the drug’s positive effects.

Another drug, Lucentis® (ranibizumab), is chemically similar to Avastin and has been approved by the FDA to treat wet AMD. Based on a study funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the federal National Institutes of Health (NIH), the two drugs have equal effect on visual acuity.

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