France ponders off-label Avastin

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France is the latest country poised to give the OK to swap Roche's cheaper drug Avastin for the company's pricier eye medication Lucentis. Reuters reports legislators are introducing an amendment to France's social security budget bill that would permit physicians to use Avastin to treat age-related macular degeneration. The amendment's sponsor, Gerard Bapt, says the move could shave around $273 million from annual expenses were doctors to use Avastin, and a vote is due next week.

Italy pulled a similar move last month, and Novartis's reaction is the same as it was then: the company says the off-label use puts patients at risk. Novartis markets the drug in Europe.

“We do not see how reimbursing off-label use for cost reasons in France is justified in the interest of public health,” the company told Reuters Wednesday.

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