By Helena Smolak

Italy's competition watchdog is investigating four pharmaceutical companies over what it called coordination of their commercial strategies, allegedly delaying access to a biosimilar eye-disease treatment in the country.

The Italian Competition Authority, known as AGCM, said Thursday that Samsung Bioepis, Biogen, Roche's Genentech and Novartis and some of their Italian and Dutch counterparts, are accused of delaying the market entry of biosimilar drug Byooviz in Italy.

Samsung Bioepis and Novartis said they would fully cooperate with the investigation. A Novartis spokeswoman said the company acted in accordance with competition law and in the best interests of its patients. Roche declined to comment and Biogen didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Byooviz, developed and marketed by Samsung Bioepis and Biogen, is a biosimilar of Genentech's drug Lucentis, marketed in Italy by Novartis. Both drugs contain the same active ingredient, ranibizumab.

The AGCM claims that Samsung Bioepis and Biogen, in exchange for early U.S. market access, agreed to postpone its drug entry into other markets--including Italy--even after Lucentis's patent rights expired in July 2022. The authority alleged this benefited Roche and Novartis by allowing them to maintain a monopoly.

The investigation follows inspections by Italian authorities at the offices of Biogen Italia and Novartis Pharma. In parallel, the Dutch competition authority inspected the headquarters of Samsung Bioepis in the Netherlands, the Italian watchdog said.

Write to Helena Smolak at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

06-06-24 0625ET