(Adds Roche statement)
ROME, March 14 Prosecutors in Rome have opened
an investigation into four executives at Swiss drugmakers Roche
and Novartis on suspicion of fraud and
manipulation of the pharmaceutical market, judicial sources said
The sources did not name the managers.
Earlier this month, Italy's antitrust authority said Roche
and Novartis colluded to try to stop cancer drug Avastin from
being used to treat a serious eye disease and fined the
companies 182.5 million euros ($254.2 million).
Italy's regulator accused the two Basel-based firms of
striking an alliance to prevent distribution of Roche's Avastin
as a treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in
favour of the more expensive drug Lucentis made by Novartis.
A Novartis spokesman had no immediate comment on Friday.
Roche issued a statement saying it had not been informed by
prosecutors that any of its managers were under investigation.
"Roche reiterates that it has acted correctly and confirms
its confidence in the fact that this will be fully recognised,"
It also confirmed that it would appeal against the
anti-trust ruling to an administrative court, as it said when
the ruling was issued.
Novartis has also strongly denied the regulatory decision
and pledged to appeal.
($1 = 0.7180 euros)
(Reporting by Mario Sarzanini in Rome and Caroline Copely in
Zurich; Writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Erica Billingham
and Sophie Walker)