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Victory Against Blindness

Today the FDA approved Genentech's drug Lucentis for "wet" age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in elderly Americans. Bringing this drug to market marks another triumph of human ingenuity over natural decay.

The most exciting aspect of this drug is that it not only halts the damage, but it actually helps to restore vision in many patients:

In late-stage clinical trials, Genentech showed that 34 percent of AMD patients given Lucentis gained three or more lines on an eye chart after one year, compared with 5 percent of patients given a placebo. Another trial comparing Lucentis with Novartis' Visudyne treatment showed that 40 percent of Lucentis patients had a three or more line improvement, compared with 6 percent of patients given Visudyne. In both studies, 95 percent of patients given Lucentis did not lose any visual acuity.

The bad news for the squeamish is that this drug is injected directly into the eye. (Drug delivery is hard stuff.) Another jaw-dropper is the high cost of treatment:

During a conference call with investors Friday, company officials said a 0.5 milligram dose of Lucentis will be priced at $1,950, with the number of recommended injections per patient expected to range between 5 and 7 per year.

Many people will be outraged by this price tag, railing against the "exploitation" of the elderly needy for the sake of Big Pharma Profits. These luddites need to shut the hell up and pay attention. This drug exists because Genentech saw the profit potential of this drug and invested ten years developing it.

For goodness' sake, this drug can reverse blindness. It will be a miracle treatment to potentially hundreds of thousands. It is unequivocally good. Genentech should charge what the market will bear, and be proud of every penny it earns as the result of its very difficult and highly valuable work.

Tiny Island