- Novartis and Roche manufacture Lucentis (ranibizumab) for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). But the pricey drug is a considerably more expensive treatment option than Avastin (bevacizumab)—and an article in the British Medical Journal claims that the companies have deliberately "scuppered" trials that would support use of Avastin.
- Lucentis is a $4.2 billion per year drug.
- Many doctors have been using Avastin off-label to treat (AMD), but Novartis and Roche have refused to support or participate in trials that would evaluate use of Avastin for this purpose.
Regulators in Europe are angry over what they say is the underhanded approach that Novartis and Roche have taken to squeeze Avastin out of the market. In fact, the companies were recently fined $200 million in Italy, and their offices in France were raided by authorities.
Plus, the healthy ministry in Italy is looking for up to $1.6 billion in fines. Why? Average costs of treating AMD with Lucentis is $1,200, compared with $60 for Avastin. Regulators, payers and physicians think that's a difference worth fighting for.