Italian antitrust authorities have fined Novartis and Roche Holdings a total of $250 million for allegedly colluding to prevent the use of Roche’s Avastin cancer drug as a treatment for eye disease, in favor of a more expensive drug.
Italian authorities said Roche and Novartis blocked distribution of Avastin in favor of the pricer drug, Lucentis, that the two companies market jointly for an eye condition known as wet age-related macular degeneration. The companies allegedly created an "artificial distinction" between the two drugs by exaggerating the dangers of Avastin.
Novartis must pay 92 million euros and Roche 90.5 million euros. Both companies plan to appeal the fines, stressing that Avastin has never been approved for for ophthalmic use.
A product info center on the Novartis website is devoted to making a clear distinction between Avastin and Lucentis, stating that they are "entirely different molecules with different chemical structures, and different biochemical, pharmacodynamic, pharmacokinetic and clinical profiles," while also discussing the risks of off-label prescribing.
Read the swissinfo press release