ROME (Reuters) - Italy's antitrust regulator said on Thursday it had launched a probe into several pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis, for having potentially restricted competition in the sale of a drug for eye conditions.

Samsung Bioepis, Biogen, Genentech and Novartis, and some of their Italian, Dutch and UK units, allegedly coordinated their commercial strategies to delay the launch in Italy of Byooviz, a drug made with ranibizumab and developed and sold by Samsung Bioepis, the watchdog said in a statement.

Byooviz is similar to Lucentis, which is developed by Genentech and sold in Italy by Novartis.

The potential hold-up may have limited the availability and prices for patients but may also have negative repercussions on possible savings by the Italian national health services, the authority added.

Searches had been carried out in Italy, with the support of the finance police, and in the Netherlands by the Dutch regulator, Italy's antitrust regulator added.

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti, editing by Alvise Armellini and Lincoln Feast.)