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VABYSMO - The new kid on the block

If you, or someone you know, is currently on treatment for macular degeneration or other retinal conditions, you may have heard the buzz about a new medication now available in Australia called VABYSMO. This new medication joins several others currently being used to treat Neovascular (wet) Age Related Macular Degeneration (nAMD) and Diabetic Macular Oedema (DMO).

Vabysmo has been used to successfully treat patients in America since early 2022. Following strict clinical trials and research, in January 2023 Vabysmo was approved in Australia and is now available on the PBS for the treatment of nAMD and DMO.  

In this blog we would like to discuss some of the frequently asked questions that we have encountered from patients and their carers over the last 9 months, since adding Vabysmo to our patient’s treatment options. 

What is the difference between Vabysmo and my current medication?

We often get asked if Vabysmo is better or stronger than other medications being used to treat nAMD and DMO. 

nAMD and DMO are both caused by tiny abnormal blood vessels growing in the retina. These vessels are weak and can leak causing swelling of the macula, the part of the eye that is responsible for sharp central vision. Current medications used to treat Neovascular (wet) Age Related Macular Degeneration and DMO, work by inhibiting a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) that causes the growth of abnormal new vessels in the retina. Vabysmo is a bispecific medication, which means it blocks two proteins VEGF and also angiopoetin-2 (Ang-2), another protein thought to cause abnormal vessel growth. 

The treatment process of periodic injections of medication into the eye remains the same, starting at 4 weekly treatment intervals. However clinical trials indicate that patients may be able to increase their treatment intervals, with the potential to be extended to 4 monthly injections or longer, but this will depend on how well your eye responds to the medication.

So Vabysmo isn’t necessarily stronger than other medications used to treat nAMD and DMO, it also doesn’t claim to improve or restore vision any better, but it does have the potential to last longer in the eye than other medications can in some patients.

Can I swap from my current treatment to Vabysmo?

Vabysmo has only been approved by the PBS for the treatment of Neovascular (wet) Age Related Macular Degeneration and DMO in Australia. So unfortunately if you are being treated for a different retinal condition you currently do not qualify for subsidised Vabysmo. 

It is normal, with any medication, for patients to differ in how they respond to one treatment compared to another. It is common for a patient to switch from one anti-VEGF medication to another during their treatment course if the initial medication is not working as well as it should. 

If your current treatment is stable and at an acceptable treatment interval there may be no need or benefit in swapping to Vabysmo. On the other hand, if your current treatment struggles to maintain its effect past 4 weekly intervals, your doctor may suggest you consider swapping to Vabysmo. 

It is also important to note that, if you swap your current treatment to Vabysmo and your eye doesn’t respond as well as expected, you can always return to your initial medication.

Does Vabysmo have any side effects?

Numerous studies show the side effects between Vabysmo and other anti-VEGF medications currently being used to treat nAMD and DMO are very similar. These include; infection, retinal detachment and in very rare cases possible heart attack or stroke. These risks should be discussed with your treating doctor.

What are the benefits of Vabysmo?

Unfortunately medication injected into the eye wears off and, if left untreated, the active disease may return and could cause severe vision loss. Therefore it is crucial that patients maintain regular appointments for monitoring and treatment. 

If a patient responds well to Vabysmo and treatment intervals can be increased, this means less visits to the clinic for treatment, less financial burden, less risk of complications following each treatment and improved quality of life. 

Vabysmo is an exciting addition to the treatment options for patients living with Neovascular (wet) Age Related Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Macular Oedema. If you want further information we encourage you to speak with your Ophthalmologist. If Vabysmo is suitable for your eye, your doctor may suggest you consider trying this treatment at your next appointment.