Roche, Novartis's Italian Heads Risk Trial for Alleged Market Rigging -Reuters

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Italian authorities have been investigating allegations that Roche Holding AG (ROG.EB) and Novartis AG (NOVN.EB) colluded by playing up the side effects of eye-disease treatment Avastin in order to increase sales of Lucentis, a similar but more expensive treatment, reports Reuters, citing judicial sources. Roche makes both Avastin and Lucentis and Novartis markets Lucentis outside of the U.S.

-- The investigation targeted Roche's Maurizio de Cicco and Novartis's George Schrockn Fuchs as the representatives of the two companies in Italy, according to Reuters.

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-- On Thursday Mr. De Cicco and Mr. Schrockn Fuchs were notified that Italian prosecutors had concluded the inquiry, reports Reuters, citing sources. In Italy, this often leads to a request that the defendants stand trial.

-- This is not the first time the two companies have been accused of collusion with regard to Avastin. In 2014, they were fined EUR180 million by Italy's antitrust authorities for hindering the use of Avastin, according to Reuters.

-- Roche responded to a request for comment from Dow Jones Newswires by saying that it "reaffirms its conviction that the conduct adopted is correct and trusts that the accusation of market manipulation will prove unfounded, as occurred with the other accusations already dismissed by the prosecutor." It added that it has "always acted in compliance with the law, with the aim of safeguarding patients' health regarding the improper use of its product."

-- In response to a Dow Jones Newswires request for comment, Novartis said: "We can confirm that a current associate of Novartis Italy has been notified by the Rome Public Prosecutors Office that it has concluded preliminary investigations. Novartis is cooperating with the authorities and cannot comment further at this time."

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 08, 2017 10:54 ET (15:54 GMT)