Drug companies rapped for anticompetitive behaviour

The Italian health ministry is following up on rulings from the country’s competition authorities and demanding billions of euros in damages resulting from anticompetitive behaviour.

The charges relate to Roche and Novartis’s alleged restriction of competition between two related antibody drugs that the two firms co-promote. Lucentis (ranibizumab) and Avastin (bevacizumab) are derived from the same monoclonal antibody that inhibits blood vessel growth.

Avastin is approved for treating certain cancers, whereas Lucentis is used to treat vision loss caused by age-related wet macular degeneration (AMD). But since Avastin is much cheaper, doctors have tended to try and use it off-label to treat AMD. The Italian authorities claim the companies made an agreement to block sales of Avastin in favour of Lucentis, and have asked for €1.2 billion (£977 million) in damages covering 2012–2014. The companies have denied any wrongdoing.

In the same action, the ministry is seeking damages from Pfizer for allegedly abusing its market monopoly position regarding the eye drug Xatalan (latanoprost), by preventing eligible generic versions from entering the market.

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