[Ip-health] France to back Roche cancer drug as cheaper eye treatment | Reuters

Jamie Love james.love at keionline.org
Wed Jul 2 07:13:58 PDT 2014


(Reuters) - The French government, looking to cut healthcare costs, plans
to authorize the use of Roche cancer drug Avastin as an alternative eye
disease treatment to the much pricier Lucentis, marketed by both Roche and

The government said on Monday it had introduced an amendment to its social
security budget bill that would allow doctors to use Avastin as a treatment
for age-related macular degeneration (AMD)- a leading cause of blindness
among the elderly.

The initiator of the measure, Socialist lawmaker Gerard Bapt, argues that
encouraging the use of the drug, which costs 30 times less than Lucentis,
could bring the state annual savings of at least 200 million euros ($273

French lawmakers are due to vote on the social security budget next week.

Novartis said it "strongly rejects" the health ministry's plans which it
said put patients at risk since Avastin is not safely formulated to be
injected in the eye.

"We do not see how reimbursing off-label use for cost reasons in France is
justified in the interest of public health, where there are licensed
alternatives," the drugmaker said in an emailed statement.

Roche said in a statement financial considerations by national healthcare
bodies should not compromise patient safety and EU law.

Although Roche's Avastin is not approved by health regulators as a
treatment for AMD, it works in a similar way to Lucentis and costs around
30 euros a dose in France versus the 900 euros charged for an injection of

Both Swiss drugmakers have in recent months faced regulatory scrutiny in
France and Italy on suspicion of anti-competitive practices. The two
companies have always discouraged substituting Avastin for Lucentis, saying
the two drugs were developed for different therapeutic purposes.

Lucentis is marketed by Novartis outside the United States and is the
company's third-biggest seller with sales of $2.38 billion last year. Sales
of Lucentis for Roche, which markets the treatment in the United States,
were 1.9 billion.

($1 = 0.7331 Euros)

(Reporting by Natalie Huet; Additional reporting by Katharina Bart and
Caroline Copley in Zurich.; editing by Tom Pfeiffer and David Evans)

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