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Congressman opposes Genentech's limits on Avastin

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WASHINGTON Herb Kohl, D-Wis., the chairman for the Senate Special Committee on Aging, is opposing Genentech’s decision to limit the availability of Avastin.

Kohl is opposing the decision because he believes the move would cost taxpayers billions of dollars through higher Medicare costs and that the company is limiting the drug to boost sales of its more expensive drug Lucentis.

The company referred to a Food Drug Administration warning letter sent last year to a compounding pharmacy that was repackaging Avastin for distribution to ophthalmologists and said the drug is not manufactured to meet standards for eye care.

The price difference between the drugs is significant. Avastin has a wholesale acquisition cost of $550 for 100 mg while Lucentis has a cost of $1,950 for 0.5 mg. This differential could drastically increase Medicare costs, potentially as high as $1 billion to $3 billion, Kohl said.

Kohl asked acting Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Kerry Weems to tell him how much Medicare has spent on Lucentis and Avastin since 2005 and what measures the agency has taken to investigate substituting alternative treatments for more expensive drugs. He is looking for a response by Nov. 2.

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