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Cabinet approves measures against pharmaceutical cartels

After suspected Novartis-Roche fraud case

14 March, 14:10
Cabinet approves measures against pharmaceutical cartels (see related) (ANSA) - Rome, March 14 - The government on Friday approved a decree reintroducing illicit drug classifications which includes a measure to prevent pharmaceutical cartels following a suspected fraud involving Swiss pharmaceutical companies Roche and Novartis.

Rome prosecutors last week announced that Roche and Novartis are being probed for alleged market manipulation and fraud against Italy's national health service in connection with a suspected collusion to hamper use of a cheap eye drug in favour of a more expensive one.

The decree approved on Friday "provides for legislation to sponsor the use of off-label medicines which are less expensive for the national healthcare system but equally effective from a therapeutic standpoint," said Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin.

Meanwhile prosecutors announced Friday that the board and management of Roche and Novartis are under investigation in Rome for the alleged cartel promoting Novartis's Lucentis over Roche's Avastin. The Antitrust authority said last week it had fined the companies a record 180 million euros over the alleged cartel.

It 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 have both denied the allegations and said they would appeal to the administrative courts.

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