High Hopes for Ragweed Vaccine

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Also, an Effective but Expensive Treatment for Macular Degeneration<

by Joanna Schaffhausen, ABCNews, 5 Oct 2006

A POTENTIAL RAGWEED VACCINE
A small study of 25 people, only 15 of whom completed the full study, finds that injections that lower the body's immune system reaction to ragweed may help alleviate people's symptoms during ragweed season. In the study, adults with ragweed allergy received either six once-a-week injections of the ragweed vaccine or injections with a placebo vaccine.

The vaccine was not a home run, as it failed to meet its major target for success, which was reducing nasal reaction when volunteers were tested with ragweed in the lab. However, the vaccine did show some potential. It improved volunteers' symptoms as self-rated in diaries they kept during the experiment and improved their quality of life during hay fever season. Moreover, the effects of the vaccine appeared to carry over into a second year, relieving symptoms for a second straight season. This study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine by researchers from Johns Hopkins University.

LUCENTIS IMPROVES EYESIGHT, BUT IT'S EXPENSIVE

Eye injections can help improve eyesight in people suffering from age-related vision problems. Two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine this week focus on the FDA-approved drug Lucentis for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. Both studies found that Lucentis is effective at improving vision in people with AMD, and one study found it is superior to treatment with another treatment, Visudyne. Lucentis is similar to Avastin, a chemotherapy drug that has also been used to treat AMD.

Lucentis is a smaller molecule, and thus has the potential to be more specific and have fewer side effects than Avastin, but the drugs have not yet been studied head-to-head. While Lucentis is much more expensive — nearly $,2000 wholesale compared with $550 for Avastin — it is also FDA-approved for AMD, meaning that insurance companies will likely cover its cost but not the cost of Avastin for AMD.