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France to back Roche cancer drug as cheaper eye treatment
July 2, 2014 / 9:31 AM / 3 years ago

France to back Roche cancer drug as cheaper eye treatment

PARIS, July 2 (Reuters) - 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 and Novartis.

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)

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