Belgium - Medicine Pricing | Avastin-Lucentis
On 9 October 2019, there was a second debate in federal parliament on the status and role of Avastin and Lucentis in opthalmological care (see, attached parliamentary proceedings). As was the case the preceding day in the plenary session of the federal Parliament (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences Newsflash of 9 October 2019), the new debate in the committee for health and equal opportunities was again tense and offered a platform for intervening members of parliament to publicise known positions that are highly critical of the approach adopted by the Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health towards Roche and Novartis and of the pharmaceutical industry in general.
For her part, the Minister firmly defended her policy explaining that (i) she had received expert advice against establishing the reimbursement of Avastin in the off-label indication for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration (“AMD”); and (ii) she had ensured, by concluding a Managed Entry Agreement with Novartis, that the price for the treatment of AMD with Lucentis would be equivalent to that of a hypothetical treatment of AMD with Avastin.
Several members of parliament advocated further hearings with representatives of the agencies involved in this file, including the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products, the Commission for the Reimbursement of Medicines and the Belgian Competition Authority (“BCA”).
In response to these requests, a hearing with the BCA, which received a complaint alleging anticompetitive arrangements between Lucentis and Novartis, will take place at an as yet unspecified date under the aegis of the committee for economic affairs. The debate promises to be interesting as it will afford the BCA the opportunity to explain its scrutiny of the pharmaceutical sector which it has earmarked as a priority industry for supervision. This is reflected in recent events, including the request of the Minister of Economic Affairs to the BCA to review the pricing practices of Leadiant (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences Newsflash of 9 September 2019) and the unannounced inspections earlier this week seeking to ferret out allegedly anticompetitive conduct hindering the market development of biosimilar products in the hospital channel (see, Van Bael & Bellis Life Sciences Newsflash of 8 October 2019).