An arrangement between Roche Holding Ltd and Novartis AG to increase the sales of an expensive drug in Italy can be considered in breach of EU competition rules, the EU’s top court ruled Tuesday, January 23.
The two Swiss pharmaceutical companies are said to have worked together to discourage doctors from prescribing Roche’s anti-cancer drug Avastin to treat eye diseases, recommending the much more expensive alternative, Lucentis, which is marketed by Novartis.
In 2014, Italy’s competition authority fined the companies each about €90 million (US$110.7 million) over the practice, but the ruling was challenged and Italian appeal judges asked the EU Court of Justice for an opinion on the case.
EU judges said the two companies may be considered guilty of “a restriction of competition,” but said that the final decision on whether to uphold fines against them rests on Italian administrative courts.
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