The French defy pharma over eye drug pricing

Drugmaker Roche lost a fight with the French government on Thursday, when the health minister ordered reimbursement of the drug Avastin to treat a dangerous eye condition, Wet Macular Degeneration.

Roche opposes using the drug to treat wet age-related macular degeneration, arguing that since it is not approved for the condition, only the alternative drug Lucentis — which costs much more — should be used. Roche developed Lucentis but it is also marketed by drugmaker Novartis.

But doctors have been prescribing the cheaper Avastin in so-called off-label use, and the decision “will achieve significant savings,” Marisol Touraine, minister of health, social affairs and women’s rights, said.

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