Genentech will no longer sell Avastin to certain pharmacies that are repackaging the drug and selling it to consumers as a low-cost alternative to Lucentis, the company's wet macular degeneration drug. Compounding pharmacies, as they are known, are dividing doses of Avastin into smaller amounts that can be injected in the eye, creating a $50 alternative to Genentech's $2000-a-month Lucentis treatment. Avastin is chemically similar to Lucentis but is not approved to treat wet AMD.
Genentech notes that there is the risk of microbial contamination when compounding pharmacies divide up Avastin doses. Additionally--and perhaps more importantly for Genentech--off-label Avastin use is cannibalizing Lucentis' sales. U.S. Avastin sales totaled $1.1 billion in the first six months of this year, while Lucentis sales were $420 million. About 200,000 people are diagnosed with wet AMD each year, which could mean big buck for Genentech.
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