Italy seeking $1.6 billion in damages from Novartis, Roche for colluding on eye treatment

MILAN – Italy’s health ministry is seeking 1.2 billion euros ($1.63 billion) in damages from Swiss pharmaceutical giants Novartis and Roche after an anti-trust court ruled the two companies colluded to prevent the distribution of an eye medication.

The pharmaceutical companies are accused of working together to favour distribution of Lucentis, used to treat a form of age-related vision loss, over the less costly Avastin, which has been found to be as effective as the more expensive drug.

Both companies have denied wrongdoing and vowed to appeal the collusion ruling. A final decision is due in November.

Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin said Thursday that it was the government’s duty to seek damages for the health system.