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Genentech: Is Bottom Line Pushing Use of Lucentis?

It didn't take long. Yesterday,I blogged that I'd be curious to hear what the response of doctors might be to Genentech's new crackdown on the use of Avastin instead of Lucentis for age-related macular degeneration.

Today, the American Academy of Opthamology put out a press release saying the new policy "could have a significant impact on the care of patients with (AMD)." AAO President, Dr. Charles "Pat" Wilkinson is quoted as saying that the organization "is evaluating how this decision will affect patient care." Tiny little doses of Avastin, a close cousin of Lucentis, are drastically less expensive than Lucentis.

"The Academy is seeking information from the FDA and Genentech to determine an appropriate and safe solution for patients and their doctors," the release goes on to say. The group claims that doctors who've been using Avastin instead of Lucentis cite "good clinical results for patients."

But Genentech warns that it has not tested Avastin for AMD and that the FDA shares its concern about having what are called "compounding pharmacies" break up the cancer drug into little doses to be injected into the eye for the leading cause of adult-onset blindness. One issue they worry about is the potential for contamination. For more info on AMD you can go to www.aao.org.

The AAO release also reminded me that a federal government-sponsored study is set to begin this year comparing Lucentis to Avastin, a so-called "head-to-head study". Genentech is not paying for that one.

DNA, which has retreated from the best levels of the day, reports earnings on Monday after the closing bell. The stock usually trades more on the revenue numbers from its top-selling drugs, than on its earnings. Watch the Lucentis number.

Like at least a few other analysts, Rodman & Renshaw biotech guy Mike King is telling clients in a research note today that Lucentis sales could come in light. "This could be the second consecutive quarter of flattened Lucentis growth after two consensus-smashing quarters…."

If he and the others are right, that could possibly explain the timing of the Genentech announcement. R&R would like to bank Genentech.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com