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Novartis and Roche probed over alleged cartel

Companies face trial in Italy for 'market manipulation, fraud'

06 March, 14:33
Novartis and Roche probed over alleged cartel (ANSA) - Rome, March 6 - Swiss pharmaceutical companies Roche and Novartis are being probed for alleged market manipulation and fraud against Italy's national health service in connection with suspected collusion to hamper use of a cheap eye drug in favour of a more expensive one, Rome prosecutors said Thursday.

The investigation comes after Italy's Antitrust authority said Wednesday it had fined the companies a record 180 million euros for the alleged cartel promoting Novartis's Lucentis over Roche's Avastin. The Antitrust authority said the companies' actions had cost the Italian national health service over 45 million euros in 2012 alone and that future costs could potentially reach 600 million euros a year.

Novartis and Roche both said the accusations are groundless and would appeal to the administrative courts.

Meanwhile, Lazio Governor Nicola Zingaretti of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) said should the charges be confirmed the region would file a civil action in the case and called on the new national government of party colleague Matteo Renzi to do everything possible to ensure pharmaceutical companies operate within the law. Italian consumer association Codacons said it would ask the country's audit court to verify whether the Italian Medicines Agency (Aifa), the authority responsible for drug regulation in Italy, had acted negligently in the affair.

In addition, it would file a class-action suit against the agency and the two pharmaceuticals companies implicated in the alleged collusion.

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