Genentech delays Avastin restrictions

November 26, 2007

Genentech is delaying its plan to restrict the use of Avastin by ophthalmologists in the US until January 2008.

Genentech is delaying its plan to restrict the use of Avastin by ophthalmologists in the US until January 2008.

Previously, Genentech planned to restrict the sales of Avastin to independent compounding pharmacies, which divide vials of the drug into smaller portions for off-label use by ophthalmologists as a treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The decision to continue selling the drug to the pharmacies until January 1st 2008, follows a meeting between Genentech, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Society of Retina Specialists.

Meanwhile, at this November's AAO congress in New Orleans, US, Genentech president of product development, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, defended the firm's controversial decision and warned ophthalmologists that, "we can't help patients unless we're working together."

However, during the same session, Kirk Packo, MD, of Illinois Retina Associates in the US, spoke of the ophthalmologist's legal right to use drugs off-label and he accused Genentech of making a number of decisions that served to build a wall of distrust between the firm and the ophthalmic community. He claimed that the final straw was Genentech's letter to patients, which suggested that Avastin was not a good choice of therapy. Dr Packo pleaded with Dr Desmond-Hellmann to "tear down this wall."

Genentech remains adamant that, by continuing to supply Avastin to compounding pharmacies, it would be putting its entire manufacturing operation at risk.