Genentech Won't Let Up on Lucentis


Yes, I'd rather be blogging about another topic by now, but I hope this will be the last entry -- at least for awhile -- on the Avastin vs. Lucentis story.

You see, last Friday I got repeatedly voice-mailed and e-mailed by Christine Castro, the new head of corporate communications/media relations at Genentech.

I wasn't even aware there was a new person running the show until I heard from her that day. Castro wanted me to speak by phone with the company's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hal Barron, to once again help me clarify/correct alleged errors in my latest blog entries about the latest chapter in the Avastin-Lucentis controversy.

When I called her back late Friday -- and she was miffed that I'd taken so long to get back to her -- Ms. Castro maintained that the company, as she put it, has been consistent all along regarding its new policy on the use of Avastin instead of Lucentis to treat age-related macular degeneration.

I maintained that the two Genentech statements that I excerpted said two different things: One says -- and I'm opening myself up to criticism for paraphrasing again -- "We won't and you can't"; the other one says, "We will and you can."

I told Ms. Castro that I am happy and obligated to make a clarification or correction when I've made a mistake or an omission. In fact, I think I've done it on this blog on more than one occasion. But I am hard-pressed to see where my reporting on this situation is inaccurate. I declined the offer to speak to the CMO -- and I stand by the blog.

Before this story broke, I recently made a formal request for the first-ever TV interview with Genentech Chief Executive Art Levinson at the upcoming JPMorgan Healthcare Conference.

I've been trying to talk to him for the longest time because every time I've heard him speak he has been refreshingly outspoken, opinionated and highly quotable -- a rarity among big-cap CEOs. They've turned me down every time before, so I didn't have high hopes before last Friday... but now I'm almost certain my chances are sunk.

Merry Christmas.

Questions? Comments?