Posted by: Audrey Erbes | November 3, 2007

Genentech Public Relations Snafu

Many life science companies don’t realize that industry stakeholders speak with each other, including physicians, companies, and regulatory agencies across countries. It’s amazing that Genentech has fallen into this error twice in the recent past.

First, they appeared to agree with media forecasters that they would double the cost of therapy for a new indication for a cancer drug  used with double the dose of already approved indication use.  This is referred to as therapy based pricing based on amount of drug used. After bad press, they backtracked by claiming they hadn’t decided on price for new indication as yet. But then they balked at opthalmologists using Avastin (a product that is far cheaper for opthalmic usage vs. cancer indications on dose basis) in place of their new drug Lucentis developed for macular degeneration. Lucentis was derived from Avastin and opthomologists have been using Avastin for the ocular indication prior to Lucentis’ availability. Basically, Genentech was trying to rationalize why they would charge different prices for a dose based on amount used in the first case but then trying to explain why they should charge a lot more for a much smaller dose.

 In the latter Lucentis case, they tried to limit access usage of Avastin for ocular use through supply to the distribution system. They claimed that the FDA was concerned about the sterility of Avastin if used for opthalmic uses. The FDA claims this is not the case.

The FDA stated that “the Food and Drug Administration did not ask Genentech to stop distributing Avastin to compounding pharmacies, and FDA has not taken action to limit the off-label use of Avastin.”  ( The FDA has noted there has been no difference in adverse reactions with Lucentis and Avastin usage for ocular indications.

Genentech has backed off on their distribution decision to drug compounders but meanwhile the eye docs are furious with them. And Genentech is chipping away at its image of  delivering life-saving drugs to join other pharma companies as another money obsessed company.



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