LONDON, July 9 A French move to allow the use of
Roche's cancer drug Avastin as a cheap alternative eye
treatment, even though it is not designed for this purpose, was
criticised by the pharmaceutical industry on Wednesday.
The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and
Associations (EFPIA) said the French decision - approved by
lawmakers on Tuesday - undermined Europe's regulatory framework
by endorsing off-label use of medicines for economic reasons.
"A worrying trend is growing across Europe with governments
bypassing important health safeguards and making public health
decisions based purely on short-term economic considerations,"
EFPIA director general Richard Bergstrom said in a statement.
"This is a serious public health issue which the European
Commission must address urgently before it becomes more
The French government amended its social security budget
bill to allow doctors to use Avastin as a treatment for wet
age-related macular degeneration (AMD) - a leading cause of
blindness among the elderly. Lawmakers in France's lower house
endorsed the new budget with 272 votes for and 234 against.
The decision opens a new front in a long-running battle over
the unapproved use of Avastin in eye care and underscores how
cash-strapped governments are finding creative ways to contain
ballooning healthcare costs.
Roche's Avastin is not approved by health regulators as a
treatment for AMD, but works in a similar way to the treatments
currently authorised for AMD - Lucentis, marketed by Novartis
and Roche, and Eylea, from Germany's Bayer
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by David Evans)