BU Researchers: Avastin For Diabetic Macular Edema Less Effective Among Blacks Than Whites

November 14, 2020
Christine Blank
Christine Blank

Researchers say their study is the first to look at race as a factor in how people with diabetic macular edema respond to treatment with Avastin.

Avastin (bevacizumab) is less effective in treating Blacks with diabetic macular edema — the most common cause of blindness in diabetics — than Whites, researchers discovered.

Researchers at Boston Medical Center conducted a first-of-its-kind retrospective cohort study looking at race as a factor in treatment of diabetic macular edema, and the results were published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

They found that Black patients were significantly less likely than White patients to show short-term visual improvement after both a single injection and a series of three injections with Avastin, the most common treatment in the U.S. for diabetic macular edema.

African American are 60% more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes than White, non-

Hispanic adults, according to the HHS Office of Minority Health. In addition, Black individuals have at least twice the prevalence of diabetic macular edema compared to white individuals, “and should be represented in future research accordingly," said Manju Subramanian, M.D., an ophthalmologic surgeon at Boston Medical Center and an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Medicine, said in a press release. Subramanian is the study's senior and corresponding author.

"The results from our study show a gap in treatment for black individuals with diabetic macular edema, despite the fact that they are more heavily impacted by this disease," Subramanian said. ”When clinical research trials don't include enough diversity, it will not provide comprehensive data about the efficacy across different racial and ethnic groups, which as we can see, results in disparities in care."

The researchers reviewed the electronic medical records of patients with diabetic macular edema who were treated with Avastin at Boston Medical Center. After the first injection, 27% of Black patients compared to 40% of Hispanic and 50% of White patients experienced improved visual acuity.

For those who received three injections of Avastin, 34% of Black patients compared to 55% of Hispanic patients and 59% of White patients experienced improvements in their visual acuity.

“Further research is warranted to understand the effect of race and ethnicity on anti-VEGF efficacy to ensure optimal treatment for each individual,” the researchers wrote.