Drug maker Novartis is taking legal action in Britain to make state-run hospitals use an eye drug that costs about 700 pounds ($1,130) per shot instead of a cheaper one that costs 60 pounds ($97).
In a statement, Novartis said it was calling for a judicial review “as a last resort” because it believed patient safety was being potentially compromised.
According to the U.K.‘s health watchdog, Novartis’ Lucentis is the only drug recommended to treat the eye problem macular degeneration in the country’s state-run National Health Service hospitals.
However, several NHS hospitals have been prescribing the much cheaper Avastin, a cancer drug made by Genentech Inc., for the same problem even though it has not been officially approved.
Most doctors only prescribe drugs approved by the health watchdog, but have the discretion to use other treatments if they believe they are warranted.
Last year, four hospitals in southern England decided they would pay for Avastin when it was prescribed by a doctor.
LUCENTIS is a prescription medicine for the treatment of patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Why is Ranibizumab (LUCENTIS) prescribed?
Ranibizumab is used to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD; an ongoing disease of the eye that causes loss of the ability to see straight ahead and may make it more difficult to read, drive, or perform other daily activities). Ranibizumab is in a class of medications called vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) antagonists. It works by stopping abnormal blood vessel growth and leakage in the eye(s) that may cause vision loss in people with wet AMD.
How should this medicine be used?
Ranibizumab comes as a solution (liquid) to be injected into the eye by a doctor. It is usually given in a doctor’s office every month. Your doctor may give you injections on a different schedule if that is best for you.
Before you receive a ranibizumab injection, your doctor will clean your eye to prevent infection and numb your eye to reduce discomfort during the injection. You may feel pressure in your eye when the medication is injected. After your injection, your doctor will need to examine your eyes before you leave the office.
Ranibizumab controls wet AMD, but does not cure it. Your doctor will watch you carefully to see how well ranibizumab works for you. Talk to your doctor about how long you should continue treatment with ranibizumab.
In a statement Tuesday, Novartis AG said it was demanding a judicial review to make the hospitals use Lucentis rather than Avastin.
Avastin is approved in combination with IV 5-FU–containing chemotherapy.
Avastin is approved for:
Metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) when started with the first or second intravenous 5-FU–based chemotherapy for metastatic cancer
Advanced nonsquamous non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in combination with carboplatin and paclitaxel in people who have not received chemotherapy for their advanced disease
Metastatic kidney cancer (mRCC) when used with interferon alfa
Glioblastoma (GBM) in adult patients whose cancer has progressed after prior treatment. The effectiveness of Avastin in GBM is based on tumor response. Currently, no data have shown whether or not Avastin improves disease-related symptoms or survival in people previously treated for GBM