Eye specialists who work at the Washington University School of Medicine are pleased the Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug to treat age-related macular degeneration. Dr. Raj Apte participated in the clinical trials of Lucentis at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine before moving to St. Louis. He says other treatments have been effective in stabilizing a loss of vision, but Lucentis has actually improved the eyesight of some patients. Apte says this form of macular degeneration affects almost solely people 50-years-old and older. Loss of vision can keep them from driving and reading. Apte urges anyone who has noticed a loss of vision to consult their doctor and see if Lucentis might be an appropriate treatment. A St. Louis County woman, Doris Baechle, has undergone treatment. She noticed her eyesight diminishing in 1996 as she developed age-related macular degeneration in one eye. Drugs stabilized the eye, but it remained legally blind. When her other eye deteriorated, she volunteered to participate in the national trials for Lucentis, because of its promise of restoring eyesight. Her first injection of the drug came in March. She had two others; one in April, the other in May. Baechle can read again, with strong light, and reports her overall vision is vastly improved. More than 37,000 Missourians are estimated to be affected by the disease.
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