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Novartis joins Bayer in appealing drug ruling

Monday 22nd October 2018
Novartis has confirmed it is joining Bayer in appealing a court decision over the use of an unlicensed drug by the NHS to treat an eye condition.
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Pharmaceutical firm Novartis is joining Bayer in appealing against a ruling that went in favour of 12 NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in the north east of England, allowing them to reject drugs produced by the firms to treat wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in favour of a cheaper alternative.

The ruling at the High Court in London last month supported the decision by the CCGs to use Avastin, rather than Bayer's drug Eylea or Lucentis, which is sold by Novartis. The two drug companies had been attempting to prevent this course of action. 

While Avastin can be as much as 30 times cheaper than the alternatives, it has not yet been licensed in the UK, although it has been elsewhere. The ruling said it was "undeniably effective and less expensive".

The two pharma companies disagreed with this and, confirming the appeal, a spokesperson for Novartis said: "Today, people living with wet AMD are now being asked to compromise on the assured quality and safety of their treatment, purely on the basis of cost. This is inappropriate and unnecessary."

He added that the future consequence of the judgement might be that patients with conditions such as cancer and diabetes will be "asked to compromise on the quality and safety of their treatments".

Following the original ruling last month, chief officer of the South Tyneside CGC David Hambleton said it was a "victory for common sense" and there was "no medical basis" for the arguments Bayer and Novartis had been voicing in the court case. 

Bayer was very swift to confirm plans to appeal, which it had done by the end of last month. A spokesperson for the firm labelled the verdict "a setback for public health" that brought a "worrying precedent that denies patients the protection afforded by the regulatory process".

Avastin costs just £28 per injection to use, compared with £561 for Ludentis and £800 for Eylea. 

Written by James Puckle

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