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5 eye infections prompt Avastin injection recall

A Georgia compounding pharmacy is recalling 40 lots of Avastin injection syringes after reports that at least five patients developed eye infections from off-label use of the drug.

The injection drugs -- typically used as a less-expensive way to treat wet age-related macular degeneration -- were distributed starting Dec. 18, 2012 to doctors’ offices in Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Indiana by Clinical Specialties Inc. of Augusta, Ga.  Austin Gore, the pharmacist who runs the firm, said all five infections appeared to be linked to a single Georgia pharmacy, but Georgia health officials said one of those infections actually occurred in Indiana. Indiana health officials said the situation was under investigation.

The patients have developed bacterial endophthalmitis caused by streptococcus bacteria, said Cherie Dreznek, Georgia's state epidemiologist. Food and Drug Administration officials warned health care workers in August 2011 about the dangers of using repackaged eye injections of Avastin, a cancer drug known generically as bevacizumab.

At least a dozen people developed eye infections, the FDA said, including some who were blinded after receiving the tainted injections. Another four patients developed eye infections in Tennessee, state officials said at the time.

Clinical Specialties has notified doctors’ offices of the recall and urged health workers to immediately stop using the Avastin injections.

Made by the firm Genentech, Avastin solution for IV injection is approved to treat various cancers. It frequently is used off-label to treat macular degeneration because Avastin costs about $50 per injection while Lucentis, the Genentech drug approved for injection, costs about $2,000 per injection.

Consumers should contact Clinical Specialties at 866-880-1915 if they have experienced any eye problems after an injection of Avastin distributed by the firm.

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