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Reuters report Italian investigation into Roche and Novartis executives over Lucentis

Reuters news agency have reported that Italian prosecutors have opened a formal investigation against Roche (SIX: ROG; OTCQX:RHHBY), Basel, Switzerland and Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS; SIX:NOVN), also based in Basel, Switzerland. The investigation is understood to involve four company executives on suspicion of “fraud and manipulation of the pharmaceutical market”. The investigation follows immediately on a previous decision by the Italian Competition Authority to fine Novartis €92 million ($127.8 million) and Roche €90.5 million ($125.8 million) for alleged anti-competitive practices between the companies regarding the sale of Lucentis ranibizumab and Avastin bevacizumab in Italy. The Competition Authority alleged that the global pharmaceutical companies presented Avastin as a riskier drug (compared to Lucentis) in order to influence the prescribing activities of doctors towards the more expensive Lucentis drug. According to Novartis, the Italian hospital price for a Lucentis injection is €857 (for a once-monthly injection) while the Italian Competition Authority have stated that an off-label injection of Avastin costs €81, over 10 times less than Lucentis.