Kohl Continues Investigation Into Avastin Availability
Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) is continuing his investigation into Genentech’s decision to limit the availability of cancer drug Avastin, questioning company officials on their decision and asking the FDA’s opinion on the move.
Genentech could be limiting Avastin’s (bevacizumab) availability to some pharmacies to boost sales of its more expensive product, Lucentis (ranibizumab), Kohl said in a previous letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Avastin is approved to treat colorectal cancer and lung cancer but commonly is used off-label to treat advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Lucentis was approved last year to treat AMD. The drugs are closely related and share the same mechanism of action.
However, the price difference between the drugs is significant. Avastin has a wholesale acquisition cost of $550 for 100 mg while Lucentis’ is $1,950 for 0.5 mg. Because the CMS is a big purchaser of Avastin, limiting the drug’s availability could cost taxpayers $1 billion to $3 billion a year, Kohl said.
In a letter to Genentech Product Development President Susan Desmond-Hellman, Kohl requested documents related to discussions Genentech had with sponsors of a forthcoming study comparing Lucentis and Avastin. While Desmond-Hellman said she was unaware any negotiations took place, other sources told committee staff such talks did occur.
Kohl’s Nov. 16 letter to Desmond-Hellman can be seen at aging.senate.gov/letters/genentechltr.pdf.