|Novartis, Roche fined for collusion over Avastin
Italy's antitrust body said it has slapped Swiss pharma giants Novartis and Roche with fine totaling 182.5 million euros for allegedly manipulating sales of a cheap drug used to treat sight problems, including macular degeneration
“The two groups made an illicit deal to prevent the use of a very cheap drug, Avastin, in treating the most widespread sight problem among the elderly and other serious eye diseases,'' the antitrust body said in a statement.
The pharmaceutical giants did so “to benefit a much more expensive product, Lucentis, artificially differentiating between the two products,'' it said, including by steering health services and doctors away from Avastin by describing it as more dangerous.
Both Roche and Novartis market Lucentis as the best medicine for the eye disease known as macular degeneration.
However, while Roche's Avastin is a cancer drug, a 2010 study found it was just as effective as Lucentis in treating the eye disease.
The result of their alleged collusion to blacklist Avastin as an eye cure was “a greater difficulty in treating many patients and a cost to the national health service estimated at around 45 million euros in 2012,'' the antitrust said, adding that increased future costs could exceed 600 million euros a year.
According to Italy's La Repubblica daily, Avastin costs “between 15 and 80 euros, while Lucentis costs over 900 euros a dose.’’
Novartis was fined 92 million euros and Roche 90.5 million euros.
Novartis said it “rejects the accusations of anti-competitive behavior'' and will appeal against the fine. In a note, it said that the factors limiting the use of Avastin in Italy “have nothing to do with Novartis.’’-AFP