Off-Label Over There

  • by: |
  • 07/28/2014

According to a story in the  Wall Street Journal, pharmaceutical companies are pushing back against decisions by cash-strapped European governments to reimburse patients for drugs that haven't been approved to treat their conditions.

In June, Italy became the first EU country to allow its national health system to pay for cancer drug Avastin when it is prescribed to treat age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, an eye sickness that can cause blindness. The European Medicines Agency hasn't approved Avastin for treating AMD.

On Wednesday, France's National Assembly passed a law allowing for the reimbursement of off-label medicine as an attached amendment to its social-security budget. It specifically mentions Avastin as an example of a drug that falls under this category.

A spokesman for the European Commission, the EU executive in charge of enforcing the bloc's laws, declined to comment on the French and Italian laws. However, he said the commission will launch a study on off-label prescriptions later this year to evaluate legal and scientific aspects.

But what about off-label communications? Can you have one without the other? And can only one side (meaning the government) share such information? That's not "academic detailing" -- it's more like "Euro-detailing."

In May, Richard Bergstrom, the director of European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, wrote a letter to Paola Testori Coggi, director general for health and consumers at the European Commission, expressing concern over what he called the promotion of off-label use by European health-care bodies. Mr. Bergstrom asked the commission to meet with an EFPIA delegation, which Ms. Testori Coggi accepted. A specific date for the meeting hasn't yet been set.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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