Frustrated with Tagrisso's NICE delay, AstraZeneca calls for reform

Back when it was fending off Pfizer’s hostile takeover attempt, AstraZeneca found support from some officials in the U.K. who blasted the deal on its potential for job losses and R&D cuts. But in a change of relations, AstraZeneca is growing impatient with the U.K. government for not making available the new lung cancer med Tagrisso.

Already available through health programs in France, Germany, Sweden and several other European countries, Tagrisso this week bested chemo in a Phase III trial in advanced EGFR mutation-positive non-small-cell lung cancer. It’s already EU- and FDA-approved, but has so far failed to gain support from NICE, which said on a preliminary basis last month that the drug shouldn’t be included in England’s National Health Service.

Shooting for $45 billion in annual sales by 2023 as part of its Pfizer rebuke, AstraZeneca isn’t happy with the delay. In an interview with The Telegraph, U.K. head Lisa Anson said the London-based pharma was “very disappointed” with the decision, adding “it takes longer for Nice to agree on the same data set that other markets have had and granted access to.” The company is counting on peak Tagrisso sales of $3 billion. What’s more, Tagrisso was developed by U.K. scientists, The Telegraph reports.

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NICE, which has taken on the long-troubled Cancer Drugs Fund, said in a statement seen by the newspaper that the Tagrisso decision isn’t final. It added that the drug “has shown early promise, however the long-term benefits it could have on overall survival and quality of life are uncertain.”

Anson renewed a call for the government to reform NICE, growing the chorus of displeasure among AZ’s pharma peers who have seen effective new drugs turned down on price concerns.

Just this month, Japanese drugmaker Eisai became the latest to voice complaints after NICE denied thyroid cancer drug Lenvima and delayed a reconsideration until 2017. Europe head Gary Hendler told Reuters the company is considering legal action and rethinking its U.K. commitment in response.

The next NICE committee meeting for Tagrisso is scheduled for Wednesday, with the published guidelines expected in October.

- here's the Telegraph story
- and the NICE committee papers

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