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Genentech Delays Plan on Avastin Eye Use: WSJ

Biotechnology company Genentech is delaying a plan which would make it harder for doctors to use its cancer drug Avastin as an inexpensive treatment for eye afflictions, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Representatives from Genentech -- the world's second-largest biotechnology company -- were not immediately available for comment.

The company has not applied for approval from the Food and Drug Administration to use Avastin in the eyes and has no plans to do so, the newspaper reported, citing company spokesperson Dawn Kalmar.

Earlier this month Genentech said it was moving to curtail sales of Avastin to independent compounding pharmacies that divide vials of the medicine into tiny portions that retina specialists can use to treat wet age-related macular degeneration -- a leading cause of blindness among the elderly.

However the newspaper reported that Genentech agreed to supply compounding pharmacies with the drug until Jan. 1.

The change was the result of a meeting last week between senior Genentech executives and the leaders of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Retina Specialists, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Avastin has been broadly used in the United States and Europe as an off-label treatment for macular degeneration because the cost of a one-month supply for eye use is about 40 to 50 times lower than the $2,000 price for a comparable dose of Lucentis, Genentech's newer eye drug.

The National Eye Institute and National Institutes of Health are conducting a head-to-head trial comparing Avastin and Lucentis as treatments for macular degeneration.

Genentech is majority owned by Swiss drug maker Roche Holding.

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