Genentech Defends Supply Shift For Top Cancer Drugs

Published: Nov 26, 2014

Genentech Defends Supply Shift For Top Cancer Drugs

November 25, 2014

By Krystle Vermes, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Genentech, the biotechnology unit of Roche , has decided to only allow a handful of distributors to supply three of the world’s most used cancer drugs. Now, the company is facing scrutiny as the healthcare industry cites delays and cost increases, according to Reuters.

Instead of going through wholesale distributors, Genentech started distributing Herceptin, Avastin and Rituxan to hospitals and clinics through six specialty distributors. In an open letter in the New York Times, Novation urged Genentech to reverse its decision, claiming that cancer patients could face delays in therapy.

However, the company believes that it can guard against counterfeit versions of its drug hitting the market by going through specialty distributors. In 2012, Roche found that fake versions of Avastin were being sold.

"By utilizing specialty distributors, which have specific expertise in distributing specialty medicines and significantly fewer distribution centers, we are better able to manage and track our supply," Genentech said in a statement.

Progress with Avastin
Avastin, also known as bevacizumab, is a biologic antibody that is designed to interfere with the blood supply of tumors, reducing their ability to grow and spread. Genentech announced on Nov. 14 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved of Avastin in combination with chemotherapy for the treatment of platinum-resistant, recurrent ovarian cancer.

"Avastin plus chemotherapy is the first new treatment option for women with this difficult-to-treat type of ovarian cancer in more than 15 years,” said Sandra Horning, chief medical officer and head of Global Product Development at Genentech. “Risk of the disease worsening was reduced by 62 percent for women who received Avastin plus chemotherapy in the study, and a notable treatment effect was observed with paclitaxel, which may be important when choosing treatment."

The company-sponsored AURELIA study shed light on the potential for Avastin to help women with this condition. The Phase III, randomized, open-label study looked at 361 women who had the ailment and had not received more than two anticancer regimens prior to enrollment in the study. The study reached its primary endpoint, an investigator-assessed progress-free survival average of 6.8 months.

In the U.S., Avastin is used to treat a wide variety of cancers including colon, lung, kidney, cervical and ovarian cancer.

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