A study carried out by Roche has warned that its Avastin (bevacizumab) cancer drug has a greater risk of side effects than its more expensive drug Lucentis when used to treat vision problems.

The report disputes a study — sponsored by the US Government-funded National Eye Institute — released last week that concluded that Avastin was just as effective as Lucentis when used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration.

Initial findings of the analysis of 78,000 Medicare patients indicated that there was an 11% greater chance of death and 57% higher chance of stroke among those taking Avastin compared to those taking Lucentis, the Financial Times reports.

The findings take one extra significance when one considers the $1,500 price tag of Lucentis compared with Avastin’s $50 price tag.

This stark difference that has triggered the ‘off label’ use of Avastin to treat wet age-related macular degeneration, a use it has not been authorised for by US regulators.

Earlier this year the UK’s National Insitute for Health and Clinical Excellence also published guidance not recommending the drug, saying that it should not be used as first-line treatment for people with metastatic breast cancer.

Clinical data has suggested that administering bevacizumab plus paclitaxel in breast cancer patients whose tumours have spread may slow cancer growth by around five months more than paclitaxel alone.

However, there is no evidence to show if the Avastin could offer a better quality of life than existing treatments.