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Belgian antitrust regulators fined Novartis nearly $2.8 million for making misleading statements about a treatment for a serious eye disease, the latest instance in which the company was cited by a government for anticompetitive practices in connection with the medication.

The fine is only the latest act in a long-running drama over Lucentis, which is used to treat age-related macular degeneration, a common disease among older adults that can lead to blindness. However, an older and cheaper cancer medication called Avastin is often repackaged by physicians to treat the eye disease, even though it is not approved for that use.


Both drugs are manufactured by Roche, although Novartis markets the treatment in most of Europe. The similarities between the drugs have been the subject of a fierce debate for years, as Roche has argued that splitting Avastin vials to obtain needed dosages — which many physicians have been doing for years — can pose a safety risk.

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