Publication Details

Cleary, T, Reconstructing Vision: Undone Science and Anti-VEGF treatment of Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration, Australian Vision Convention, Gold Coast, 1 May 2011.


Treatment of wet AMD with the anti-VEGF drug Lucentis can be vital to maintaining central vision and therefore quality of life. This drug treatment is heavily subsidised by the Australian Government. In 2009 over $150 million was spent by the Australian Government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme on this particular AMD treatment drug. Yet, while a cheaper drug exists which costs less than one tenth of this price to treat wet AMD, the Australian Government’s own policies and the apparent lack of scientific testing of the cheaper anti-VEGF drug (Avastin) means that it will be some time before cheaper drugs are available through the Australian health system. There is little incentive for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to conduct costly research into cheaper drug options and health systems across the developed world have faced various barriers to conducting their own clinical trials on cheaper drugs. This dilemma is an example of what is known as the problem of undone science (Hess 2006), where here the lack of research on Avastin as a treatment of wet AMD has held back the reform of drug treatments for wet AMD. This brief working paper seeks to investigate how the undone science of medical retinal drug treatments came to influence the options available to treat someone experiencing wet AMD, and more broadly, how the problem of undone science can shape the financial and treatment burden of Age-related Macular Degeneration on the Australian community.

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