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Novartis Challenges Use Of Avastin In UK To Treat Eye Disease

By Marta Falconi Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES ZURICH -(Dow Jones)- Swiss drug maker Novartis (NVS) is challenging the use of a unlicensed cheaper medicine to treat an eye disease in the U.K. as an alternative to its drug Lucentis. "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," Novartis said in a statement. "It undermines the regulatory process that was introduced to safeguard patients." Novartis also said there is "emerging evidence" of potential safety concerns on the use of Avastin, or bevacizumab, to treat a neovascular form of age related macular degeneration, known as wet AMD. The BBC Tuesday said Novartis was seeking a judicial review of the policy to pay for Avastin on the publicly funded National Health Service, after the NHS in four areas in the south of England agreed last year that Avastin could be prescribed for the condition. Novartis declined to comment on whether it was seeking the review. Lucentis, Novartis' best-selling eye drug which generated $2.05 billion in sales in 2011, is recommended for use by the NHS to treat wet age-related macular degeneration. -By Marta Falconi, Dow Jones Newswires; +41 43 443 8043; marta.falconi@dowjones.com

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