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Big Pharma company accused of blocking eye treatment

By Tim Sandle     Apr 3, 2015 in Health
Pharmaceutical giant Novartis has been accused by the British Medical Journal of acting in a way to block access to low-cost eye treatment drug. The claim is refuted by Novartis.
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has stated that Novartis has been trying to block access to what some doctors believe is a low-cost, safe and effective drug to treat a common eye condition. The drug is the cancer medication Avastin.
Novartis makes an eye drug called Lucentis. However, many doctors prefer to use Avastin as a cheaper, albeit unlicensed, alternative to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a medical condition that usually affects older adults and results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field (the macula) because of damage to the retina.
Avastin is the trade name for bevacizumab and it was developed by the companies Genentech and Roche. The drug slows the growth of new blood vessels. When targeted correctly this process slows down the development of cancerous cells.
The Novartis drug, Lucentis (chemical name ranibizumab), is used in the treatment of sight problems caused by conditions where blood vessels leak into the macula, that is AMD.
The issue which the BMJ is alerting on is that Lucentis -costs about £740 per dose in the U.K. In contrast, Avastin costs around £60 per dose. In November 2014, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists stated that Avastin should be used for treating the condition via the U.K. National Health Service (NHS) and said that switching to the drug could save the NHS £100 million. The problem is that any doctor who prescribes Avastin in place of Lucentis is doing so unlicenced, which means that drug regulators have not officially sanctioned it.
The way for a drug to obtain regulatory approval is through clinical trials. The BMJ claims that it has evidence that clinicians with ties to Novartis urged some primary care trusts to pull out of one trial, and alleges the company tried to derail a second U.K. trial.
According to BBC News, a spokesman for Novartis has denied the allegations. The BMJ vs Novartis issue could run on for some time.
More about eye treatment, Eyes, Cancer, Novartis, Avastin
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