Patients in Bradford are at the forefront of a research trial which early results show could save the NHS £84 million a year if doctors switch to a cheaper drug to treat a leading cause of blindness.

The NHS-funded trial IVAN is one of the largest carried out in the field of eye disease and, for the first time, is comparing the effectiveness and safety of the drug Lucentis directly to the cheaper drug Avastin in the treatment of wet aged-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common cause of loss of vision in elderly people.

Lucentis is officially approved for use in eyes and is the treatment recommended in England and Wales by the watchdog NICE. However, the drug Avastin, which was developed to treat cancer, has been used by many doctors in treating AMD.

Lucentis costs about £700 an injection and Avastin costs £60, but is not officially approved for eye conditions.

The IVAN trial has involved 610 patients with wet AMD in 23 hospitals, including 35 at Bradford Royal Infirmary, under the care of consultant eye surgeon Faruque Ghanchi.

He said: “Bradford is one of the centres for this trial that has been going on for two years now. We were one of the first centres to recruit patients. We are lucky that we have a fantastic pool of patients that agreed to take part. It puts us at the forefront of the research community and is excellent news for Bradford.

“The aim was to compare Avastin to Lucentis, to find out if they both work and if they have the same safety profile as well.

“The one-year results show that both drugs work equally well and have similar safety profiles. So I think that is great news for the research community and great news for the patients, that either drug can be used to treat this condition.

“If the NHS switched to Avastin, there could be significant savings for the NHS.”

The results of the trial were presented by Professor Usha Chakravarthy, of Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Vision and Vascular Science, who led the research study team.

Prof Chakravarthy said the study indicated that the NHS could save £84.5 million annually based on treating 17,295 eyes each year.

The study is continuing to follow participants for two years. A more detailed analysis will be presented when the two year time point is reached.