A record fine of more than 400 million euros pronounced against the Swiss laboratories Novartis and Roche by the Competition Authority has been canceled by the Paris Court of Appeal, she announced Thursday, February 16. The two laboratories had been sanctioned in 2020 by the Competition Authority for “abusive practices” aimed at preserving the sales of a drug widely prescribed in ophthalmology, to the detriment of another thirty times cheaper.
This drug, Lucentis, developed by the American Genentech and marketed outside the United States by Novartis, is used to treat macular degeneration (AMD), the main cause of visual impairment in people over fifty in industrialized countries.
Doctors realized that another Genentech drug, the cancer drug Avastin, had positive effects on AMD and started prescribing it despite not having marketing authorization for it. this disease (MA issued by the health authorities at the request of the laboratories). But Avastin – marketed by the Swiss Roche outside the United States – costs 30 times less than Lucentis.
The Autorité de la concurrence had estimated that to preserve their interests, the three laboratories had agreed to denigrate the use of Avastin in ophthalmology, both among health professionals and public authorities.
“No exclusionary behavior”
Novartis, which was accused of having led a communication campaign to discredit the use of Avastin in ophthalmology between 2008 and 2013, had collected the highest penalty, 385 million euros. Roche and Genentech had jointly received a penalty of more than 59 million euros.
Contrary to the Competition Authority, the Paris Court of Appeal considered that from 2011 and the entry into force of new legislation, Avastin should be considered off-market for the treatment of AMD. The court concluded “no exclusionary behavior” could not be faulted over a period when Avastin and Lucentis “could not compete with each other”.
Furthermore, it considered that the communication of the Novartis group, during the period considered, had been “measured in its tone” and had not been denigrating, and that of the Novartis and Roche groups “was not alarmist or even misleading”.
Finally, it considered that the blocking behavior by Roche, which had refused to provide samples of Avastin requested by the health authorities to launch a scientific study, could not have had an anti-competitive effect.
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