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UK's National Health System Rejects Drug Therapy For Diabetic Macular Edema

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Dec. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- IRIDEX Corporation (Nasdaq: IRIX) announced today that the United Kingdom's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued a final guidance which determined that Novartis AG's drug Lucentis is not as cost effective as conventional laser photocoagulation treatment and rejected the leading drug therapy as a treatment for diabetic macular edema (DME), a swelling of retinal tissue and the most common cause of vision loss in diabetics. The rejection means that the UK National Health Service (NHS) currently will not pay for drug therapy with Lucentis for DME treatment in diabetic patients, thereby creating another important opportunity for advanced laser treatments such as IRIDEX' MicroPulse laser therapy, which has shown to be as effective as conventional laser photocoagulation with no associated retina tissue damage.

NICE, an independent appraisal committee which the UK NHS relies upon, determined that the benefits derived by Lucentis do not justify its cost; and that laser photocoagulation represented better value for NHS resources. "While Novartis is certain to appeal the ruling, this is an important indication that DME patients should consider other options besides drug therapy," noted Dominik Beck, PhD., IRIDEX President and CEO.

"This is a very clear and important statement by one of the most important medical care payers in the world: drugs are not a panacea for retinal diseases," Dr. Beck said. "Drugs like Lucentis certainly have a role in ophthalmology and can be an excellent and safe treatment for acute DME, but in addition to high costs, they come with side effects and questions about their long term benefits. That's among the reasons why we now offer MicroPulse technology on all of our new laser systems and why MicroPulse technology should be considered a first line treatment for most forms of DME. Numerous recent studies show that MicroPulse technology can provide significant durable benefits for diabetes patients without damaging the retina; thus providing powerful economic advantages for both the payors and patients."

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