In a closely watched case, Bayer and Novartis lost a legal battle against the U.K.’s National Health Service for favoring a less-expensive drug for a serious eye condition that can save the agency millions of dollars.
At issue was the Avastin cancer treatment, which is widely used by many physicians to treat age-related wet macular degeneration, even though the Roche (RHHBY) drug is not approved for that use. The medicine, however, is generally much cheaper than two other drugs that are approved for wet AMD — Lucentis, which is sold in the U.K. by Novartis (NVS), and Eylea, which Bayer (BAYRY) markets in the country.
Let us savor the “eye”-rony of this conflict. Big pharma in the US had no trouble with the common knowledge that up to 50% of scrips were written for ‘off-label’ uses in the ’90s (at least). That situation increased sales. Now this off-label use is anathema because … of sales? Ah, the irony!
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