The pharma company Novartis is challenging the NHS over its use of a cheaper alternative to its drug Lucentis, which is taken as a treatment for vision loss.
The decision comes after the NHS in parts of south England decided to use avastin instead for treating wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), despite the independent drugs watchdog National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommending the use of Lucentis. Lucentis, which costs around GBP740 for each injectio, as opposed to GBP60 for avasti, also has a European licence for treating wet AMD.
Avastin has not received official approval for treating eye conditions, although its use is becoming much more common. Novartis is now demanding a judicial review of this policy change in the NHS primary care trusts (PCTs) in Portsmouth, Southampto, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, claiming that its systems for safeguarding patients has been undermined.
The company commented “It is unacceptable to put the safety of patients at risk through the widespread use of an unlicensed treatment when a licensed medicine is available.” However, the PCTs argue that avastin is safe and useful, and that the drug is being provided as a further alternative for clinicians in addition to Lucentis.

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