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STAT Plus: Novartis and Roche are fined $528 million for anti-competitive practices in France

France’s anti-trust regulator fined Roche (RHHBY) and Novartis (NVS) a combined $528 million for conspiring to boost sales of a pricey treatment for a serious eye disease by discouraging unapproved uses of a less expensive medication.

At issue is a long-running drama over Lucentis, which is used to treat age-related macular degeneration, a common disease among the elderly that can lead to blindness. However, an older and cheaper cancer medication called Avastin is often repackaged by physicians to treat the eye disease, even though it is not approved for that use. Although both drugs are manufactured by Roche, Novartis markets the treatment in most of Europe.

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