Macular degeneration: What drugs are there to slow wet AMD?

Age-related macular degeneration – or AMD for short – can occur in both dry and wet forms. There are different therapies for the two forms of AMD. In this section, we deal with drug treatment and therapy of wet age-related macular degeneration.


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Wet AMD – lengthy and sometimes lifelong therapy

Age-related macular degeneration results in those affected having to undergo lifelong monitoring to prevent the disease from progressing. The wet form of AMD is the more aggressive form of the disease. It arises from dry AMD. Wet AMD will lead to visual deterioration much more quickly and is one of the main causes of severe visual impairment in old age. If left untreated and without therapy, wet AMD can lead to blindness. The drugs used for this have to be injected into the eye.

AMD is a chronic disease that cannot yet be completely cured. It must be checked regularly. If this is the case, ongoing therapy is necessary.

Wet AMD treatment – antibody therapy

VEGF Inhibitors – Antibodies in action
An antibody (or part of an antibody) is used to treat AMD. It is a blocker of a growth hormone also called VEGF inhibitor. VEGF stands for vascular endothelial growth factor. The drug is injected into the eye, which is completely painless for patients.

VEGF Inhibitors – how they work
VEGF inhibitors work in such a way that the diseased vessels are prevented from growing. The therapy can even achieve that the diseased vessels withdraw.

VEGF Inhibitors – aim of therapy
The macular edema will stop increasing and will reabsorb. Thanks to this therapy, the macula becomes dry again for a period of time.

Wet AMD – medicines that are used

The following drugs can be used for therapy:

  • Lucentis with the active ingredient Ranibizumab
  • Eylea with the active ingredient Aflibercept
  • Avastin with the active ingredient Bevacizumab

How the medicines work

Studies show that all three drugs are largely comparable in terms of their profile of action and side effect profile.

Avastin, the drug that has been in use for the longest time, originally comes from cancer research and is not officially approved for eye therapy. However, after adequate patient education, it may be used as an off-label-use drug and has been used in AMD therapy for years.

The drugs Lucentis and Eylea are officially approved for use on the eye and thus also for AMD.

A new, fourth drug is currently in the approval phase. The drug contains the active ingredient brolucizumab and, according to the approval studies, should allow longer intervals between the respective injections. More details remain to be seen. Approval for age-related macular degeneration is expected in Germany in 2020.

Therapy costs – what can you expect as a patient?

The AMD therapy and its costs for the injections of the drug, the treatment and the postoperative follow-up checks are fully covered by private and statutory health insurance companies.

In the case of wet AMD treatment, the important OCT controls of the macula are also covered by most health insurance companies for a certain time after the last injection.

The OCT image, which is used purely for a preventive examination, must currently still be paid by the patient himself.