(Refiles to add word "injections" to headline)
* Cases occurred at Los Angeles VA medical center
* FDA warned of Florida eye infections Tuesday
LOS ANGELES, Sept 1 Five patients being treated
for eye disease were blinded after being injected with Roche
Holding AG's ROG.VX Avastin at the Los Angeles Veterans
Affairs medical center, according to the New York Times.
VA officials did not respond to requests for comment.
The latest cases of blindness follow an alert from the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday that repackaged
injections of the Avastin, also known as bevacizumab, had
caused serious eye infections in 12 Miami-area patients.
Avastin is a cancer drug, but is commonly used to treat the
wet form of age-related macular degeneration and other eye
diseases because it costs only about $50 an injection, compared
with some $2,000 for Roche's Lucentis, which is approved for
treatment of eye diseases.
The company has argued for years the process of dividing up
doses creates the risk of contamination.
The tainted Florida injections were traced to a single
pharmacy located in Hollywood, Florida. The pharmacy repackaged
the Avastin from sterile injectable 100 mg/4 ml, single-use,
preservative-free vials into individual 1 ml single-use
The pharmacy then distributed the Avastin to multiple eye
In the Los Angeles cases, no contaminant has yet been
identified, the Times reported.
In its alert on Tuesday, the FDA did not tell doctors to
avoid using Avastin, only to be careful about contamination.
"Health care professionals should ensure that drug products
are obtained from appropriate, reliable sources and properly
administered," it said.
(Reporting by Deena Beasley; editing by Andre Grenon)