Senator Criticizes Limits On Sales Of Genentech's Avastin

Armen Hareyan's picture

Genentech's plan to limit the availability ofcancer drug Avastin, which would require physicians to use a more expensiveversion of the drug called Lucentis to treat wet age-related maculardegeneration, will cost taxpayers $1 billion to $3 billion annually, accordingto Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Bloomberg/New York Times reports (Bloomberg/New YorkTimes, 11/29). Genentech officials are considering a plan under whichwholesalers no longer would distribute Avastin to compounding pharmacies, whichdivide vials of the medication into small portions for use in the eye.

Genentechalso manufactures the similar drug Lucentis, which
FDA lastyear approved as a treatment for the eye disease, the most common cause ofblindness in the elderly. Both Avastin and Lucentis block the growth of bloodvessels. Lucentis costs $1,950 per dose, about 100 times more than the cost ofthe dose of Avastin required to treat the eye disease.

In letters to CMS and FDA that were made public on Wednesday,Kohl wrote the company's decision "is of great concern to me." Kohlalso wrote a letter to Genentech informing them of a future investigation byhis staff of the Avastin restrictions. In a statement, Genentech said,"The request is a voluntary request for information," adding,"Genentech intends to cooperate with Sen. Kohl's request for informationand work closely with committee staff to answer their questions."


According to the Contra Costa Times, some have requested that Genentech conduct a study comparing the twodrugs, but it has no plans to do so. Company spokesperson Krysta Pellegrinosaid, "For Genentech, we think our resources would be better spent tocontinue to do research in unmet patient needs." She added, "Webelieve that we've already shown that Lucentis is the right treatment for thiseye disease" (Morrill, Contra Costa Times, 11/29). The National Eye Institute is financing a two-year study comparing the effectiveness of the twotreatments (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 10/6/06).

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