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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a health alert regarding injections of the drug Avastin, which has been linked to severe eye infections in at least 12 people. Some have been blinded.

The incidents, which have occurred in Miami, Florida, highlight risks associated with the money-saving practice of injecting Avastin into the eye to treat the wet form of age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss in the elderly.

Bevacizumab is not approved for treating macular degeneration, but it is frequently used off-label for that purpose because it is much cheaper than a similar FDA-approved drug, ranibizumab (Lucentis).

The agency and Florida health officials continue to investigate the cause of the infection.

Patients and healthcare professions are urged to report any adverse events, side effects or quality problems related with the use of these products to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting program online.

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