In a move that will increase risks to its reputation, the RNIB is taking a line that supports Genentech and Roche, drug companies that market and make Avastin.
Avastin is a drug licensed for treatment for bowel cancer. It has been discovered that Avastin can also stem wet macular degeneration, a condition that condemns many elderly people to blindness. And Avastin is much cheaper than alternative treatments.
Nice is considering appraising Avastin as a treatment of macular degeneration because it is more cost-effective. Genentech and Roche are resisting NICE's efforts to appraise Avastin for this use. The RNIB is reportedly running the same argument as the drug companies, essentially that NICE should not seek out cheaper treatments by using existing drugs for new purposes.
This argument seems counterintuitive but for one additional fact reported by the Guardian. Both drug companies give money to the RNIB.
Whatever the truth, many will perceive that the RNIB is dancing to its donors' tune. Whilst this episode on its own is unlikely to cause serious damage, the accumulation of episodes like this will erode the reputation of RNIB as a trustworthy advocate for blind people.
This is a common problem for charities. Big business likes to buy their endorsement and the charities like the money. The danger for charities is that they come to be seen as just another advocate of their commercial sponsors. With that comes the loss of a valuable reputation that has taken decades to build.
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