Italy will pay for patients to use Roche Holding AG’s cancer drug Avastin to treat an eye condition for which it’s not approved as the country looks to rein in medical costs.


The decision today by the Italian Medicines Agency will steer patients with age-related macular degeneration away from Lucentis, a similar but more expensive drug developed by Roche and sold by Novartis AG (NOVN) in Italy that regulators cleared for the same disease. The country’s antitrust authority this year accused the companies of colluding to block the use of Avastin for the eyes, and the government is seeking 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) in damages from them.