April 10, 2014 / 7:31 AM / 4 years ago

French antitrust body probes Roche, Novartis over eye treatment

PARIS/ZURICH, April 10 (Reuters) - France’s competition authority is investigating drugmakers Roche and Novartis on suspicion they were involved in anti-competitive practices in respect of eye disease treatment, the companies said on Thursday.

A statement on the authority’s website said it had conducted “search and confiscation” operations on April 8 in relation to treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but it did not name the companies involved.

“We can confirm the French antitrust authorities have started an investigation ... related to Avastin and Lucentis,” said a Roche spokeswoman. “Our subsidiaries will fully co-operate.”

A Novartis spokeswoman said: “Novartis is aware of the ongoing investigation initiated by the French antitrust authority regarding anti-VEGF treatments for wet age-related macular degeneration and is cooperating with the authorities on the matter. At this time we cannot comment further on the allegations of the ongoing investigation.”

Last month, prosecutors in Rome opened an investigation into four executives at the Swiss drugmakers on suspicion of fraud and manipulation of the pharmaceutical market, according to judicial sources.

Earlier in March, Italy’s antitrust authority said Roche and Novartis colluded to try to stop cancer drug Avastin from being used to treat AMD and fined the companies 182.5 million euros ($254.2 million).

The regulator accused the two Basel-based firms of striking an alliance to prevent distribution of Roche’s Avastin in favour of the more expensive drug Lucentis made by Novartis.

Reporting by Andrew Callus, Chine Labbe and Caroline Copley; Editing by Pravin Char

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