[Ip-health] Kay Wallace: Italy fines Big Pharma

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Wed Mar 5 13:15:38 PST 2014

With permission from Andreas

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Andreas Wiegand <andreas.epn at gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 1:34 PM
Subject: RE: [Ip-health] Kay Wallace: Italy fines Big Pharma
To: Manon Ress <manon.ress at keionline.org>

Dear Manon,

I totally agree that the price difference and the possible "market
distribution" between the two pharmaceutical companies are a typical example
of preventing patients from access to treatment for a fair price. However
correct the sentence or word "identical in the paragraph. They are not
identical. The active ingredient is different even if they act similar and
you may say that they are therapeutically equivalent.
I often think that the extreme high pricing of some medicine prevents so
many patients from treatment or causes them spending money on travelling (eg
here in Kenya, patients travelling to India) that is causes so many costs
also to the economies that it is a damage to societies (beside the ethical

Best regards


Andreas Wiegand Ph.D.
Program officer product development and strategic communication
Like us on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EPN.epnetwork

Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network
Lenana road 51, Kilimani
P. O. Box 749 - 00606 Sarit Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254 724 301755 | 572 522702
Skype: epnetwork1

Just and compassionate quality pharmaceutical services for all
Services pharmaceutiques de qualité, équitables et avec compassion pour tous

-----Original Message-----
From: Ip-health [mailto:ip-health-bounces at lists.keionline.org] On Behalf Of
Manon Ress
Sent: 05 March 2014 21:09
To: ip-health
Subject: [Ip-health] Kay Wallace: Italy fines Big Pharma

Italy fines Big Pharma


Big Pharma has cost Italian health authorities hundreds of millions of
euros. More importantly, it may have cost hundreds of thousands of Italians
their sight.

On Wednesday Italy's antitrust authority fined Swiss pharmaceutical giants
Novartis AG and Roche Holding AG EURO 92 million and EURO 90.5 million
respectively for colluding to prevent the use of a cancer drug as a
treatment for a common eye disease. Untreated, wet age-related macular
degeneration leads to rapid, irreversible loss of vision. It affects one in
three of the over 60s and yet the Italian Society of Ophthalmology estimates
that in Italy alone around 100,000 patients have not been given access to
the Novartis produced drug Lucentis because of its high cost.

The two companies are accused of excluding Roche's Avastin from the market
and instead channeling demand towards Lucentis. The drugs are identical, but
Avastin costs between EURO 15 and EURO 80 per dose and Lucentis costs EURO
900. The two companies agreed to carve up the market between them. Since
2011 they created an artificial distinction between the two products,
registering Avastin only for the treatment of cancer and discouraging
patients from using it by presenting it as "more dangerous" than Lucentis.
The two multinationals also did everything they could to discredit
independent research that showed that the two drugs were identical,
according to the Italian authority.

Roche, which controls Genentech, the company that first developed Avastin,
collected massive royalties from Novartis for the commercialization of
Lucentis, a deal that is estimated to have cost Italy's health system more
than EURO 45 million in 2012 alone, with possible future costs of more than
EURO 600 million a year, according to the regulator. It is estimated that
replacing Avastin with Lucentis will cost the Italian health service EURO
678.6 million in 2014, as opposed to EURO 63.5 if Avastin is adopted.
Clearly it is a problem that does not affect only Italy. France has
exclusively adopted Lucentis, at a cost to its health service of EURO 700

In his blog for Repubblica online, health correspondent Michele Bocci argues
that the Italian Pharmaceutical Agency (AIFA) should intervene with an ad
hoc provision to stop the waste of public funds. "The problem is that the
law holds that a pharmaceutical can be used for purposes other than those
indicated (as would be the case for Avastin) only if there is no other
product indicated for that purpose (here Lucentis)." The law is designed to
stop drugs being abused, but is here being manipulated solely for profit.

We all know the arguments about pharmaceutical companies needing to make big
profits to justify their spending on R&D. But as Dr. Marcia Angell, former
Editor in Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine has pointed

"The combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9
billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put
together ($33.7 billion) [in 2002]."

The soaring cost of health care is one of the most crucial problems facing
governments in developed countries. With rising life expectancy and low
birth rates much of this is inevitable. But authorities like Italy's AIFA
need to be vigilant to stop greedy pharmaceutical companies like Roche and
Novartis making the situation even worse.

Manon Ress, Ph.D.
Knowledge Ecology International, KEI
manon.ress at keionline.org, tel.: +1 202 332 2670 www.keionline.org
Ip-health mailing list
Ip-health at lists.keionline.org

Manon Ress, Ph.D.
Knowledge Ecology International, KEI
manon.ress at keionline.org, tel.: +1 202 332 2670

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