updated 4/28/2011 11:54:19 AM ET 2011-04-28T15:54:19

A new study shows that a cheaper drug for a common eye disease is as effective as a more expensive one approved for the condition.

The study found that vision improvement was the same among patients given monthly shots of Avastin or Lucentis for one year. The patients have an eye disease called wet macular degeneration — a common cause of blindness in the elderly.

Avastin is a cancer drug that many doctors have used to treat the eye disorder even though it wasn't approved for that use. It costs about $50 per treatment compared to $2,000 for Lucentis. Both drugs are sold by Roche's Genentech unit.

Results were published online Thursday by the New England Journal of Medicine and will be presented at a meeting on Sunday.

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