PARIS, July 2 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
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 million).
French lawmakers are due to vote on the social security
budget next week. Roche and Novartis could not immediately be
reached for comment.
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 Lucentis.
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 in Zurich; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)