When a Doctor’s Talking Too Much Makes the Patient Go Blind

The headline is no joke. It’s what experts think is the explanation behind vision-ruining infections in the eye that happen occasionally with injections into the eye of a drug used to halt the progress of macular degeneration.

As the thinking goes, if the doctor is talking during the time he or she is drawing the drug from the vial into the syringe, tiny droplets of the doctor’s saliva can then be transmitted into the patient’s eye.

Another cause of eye infections in patients who get these injections is less than sterile conditions in the pharmacies that take a single vial of the drug and divide it up into the tiny doses for individual eye patients.

Whatever the cause, the infections known as endophthalmitis happen in about 1 in 1,000 injections of both of the commonly used drugs for the wet form of macular degeneration: Avastin (also used in cancer treatment) and the far more expensive Lucentis.

Read this New York Times piece for more on the subject, and about how a raft of publicized cases of infections with Avastin seems to be driving much of the eye injection business to Lucentis despite its higher price — $2,000 a dose compared to only $50 a dose for Avastin.

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