Another discount does the trick: Johnson & Johnson wins NICE backing for prostate cancer drug Erleada

Johnson & Johnson's prostate cancer drug Erleada won approval from NICE after it was rejected by the U.K. drug-price watchdog in May. (Johnson & Johnson)

A deeper discount was just the ticket for Johnson & Johnson as it has secured reimbursement in England for its prostate cancer drug Erleada.

Less than four months ago, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) rejected Erleada, even though it was offered in England below its list price of £2,735 ($3,765) for a supply of 112 tablets. A month later, NICE approved a competing prostate drug, Astellas’ Xtandi, perhaps compelling J&J to answer with another undisclosed discount.   

“We are very pleased that Janssen has been able to work with us to address the uncertainties in the evidence identified by the committee in the previous draft guidance,” NICE’s deputy chief executive Meindert Boysen said in a statement. 

Erleada, a once-daily oral androgen receptor inhibitor, works by blocking the effect of testosterone on prostate cancer cells. 

RELATED: Astella’s Xtandi nabs leg up over Johnson & Johnson’s Erleada with NICE prostate cancer win

It's approved for use along with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) in two types of patients—those with hormone-relapsed prostate cancer who are at a high risk of the cancer spreading (nmHRPC) or those with hormone-sensitive prostate cancer that has already metastasized (mHSPC).  

Trial results show that Erleada plus ADT slows the growth of cancer cells and extends the lives of those with the disease. NICE estimates that 8,000 patients who are deemed unsuitable for standard chemotherapy will be eligible for treatment with the drug.

RELATED: England’s NICE rebuffs Pfizer and Astellas’ Xtandi in non metastatic prostate cancer 

Erleada scored FDA approval in 2018 as a follow-on for J&J’s prostate treatment Zytiga. While Erleada more than doubled its worldwide sales in 2020, from $332 million in 2019 to $760 million, Zytiga’s sales fell sharply thanks to generic competition.

Xtandi, which has more prostate cancer indications, including the only drug approved for metastatic, castration-sensitive prostate cancer (mCSPC), rang up worldwide sales of $4.39 billion last year. Pfizer is Astellas’ marketing partner for the drug.