Second Indian state blocks sales of Roche's Avastin

The Indian state of Telangana has become the second state to block sales of Roche's ($RHHBY) cancer drug Avastin after 15 patients partially lost their sight after using it.

The state of Gujarat was the first to halt sales earlier this month with Drug Control Administration officials saying sales were frozen as a "precautionary measure" and officials were sending samples of the drug for lab tests.

Officials in Gujarat said they were asking Switzerland-based Roche and the importer in Mumbai to stop sales of a specific batch of the drug.

H.G. Koshia

Gujarat Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA) Chairman H.G. Koshia said "we have not banned the drug yet but as the hospital authorities suspect that the problem came up after they were given Avastin injections, as a precautionary measure we have asked the company not to sell this batch of the drug in the market," according to a report in the Business Standard.

These patients were being treated for various eye ailments at the public C. H. Nagri Eye Hospital in Ahmedabad and a few of the 15 who suffered vision loss have already been operated on.

A Roche spokesman in India acknowledged that the company had been asked to stop sales for 20 days while the drug was investigated and said the company would cooperate fully and was "taking the events in Gujarat very seriously." Roche has also started its own internal probe.

According to a report by Reuters, many doctors around the world use Avastin "off label" as a means to curb vision loss.

However, Roche said it does not approve the use of Avastin for anything other than cancer treatments and has warned that using it in that way "has already led to serious bacterial infections of the eye in other countries around the world," according to the report from Reuters.

- here's the report from the Business Standard and one from Reuters