ZURICH, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Roche's experimental eye drug helped slow the progression of an advanced form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the drugmaker said on Tuesday, potentially boosting its chances in the lucrative eye drug market.
After scrapping drugs to treat diabetes and boost levels of "good" high-density cholesterol, Roche is hoping to prove it has a stronger hand when it comes to developing treatments for the eyes.
Results of the phase II clinical trial found Roche's drug lampalizumab showed a 20.4 percent reduction rate in the area of geographic atrophy at 18 months in patients suffering from this form of AMD.
The data, which was presented at the American Society of Retina Specialists in Toronto on Tuesday, also showed no unexpected or unmanageable side effects associated with the drug, Roche said.
Geographic atrophy affects more than 8 million people worldwide and the numbers are expected to rise as the ranks of the elderly swell, making it a lucrative space for drugmakers.
There are currently no approved treatments for the disease, an advanced form of dry AMD which gradually causes vision loss in the macula, making it harder to read, drive and recognise people's faces.
The drug, which Roche's biotech unit Genentech acquired when it bought Tanox in 2007, works by inhibiting the cell-destruction properties of the protein Factor D, which is believed to be a risk factor in developing AMD. (Reporting by Caroline Copley)