AZ's fixed-price deal on Iressa gets NICE nod

Bayer may have lost out in the U.K. on Nexavar, but that doesn't mean the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence isn't open to new cancer drugs--it's just further evidence that the price has to be right.

And in the case of AstraZeneca's (NYSE: AZN) Iressa, it was. The lung cancer pill got a recommendation from the cost-effectiveness watchdog for use by the National Health Service, but only after the company offered an unusual fixed-price arrangement. Iressa will be supplied to the NHS at £12,200 ($17,560) per patient, regardless of how long treatment lasts. And the NHS won't pay at all for patients who use Iressa for less than three months.

As an AstraZeneca spokeswoman told Reuters, "It has been designed to ensure value for money for the NHS and to enable the budget impact to be predicted more accurately." Final guidance on Iressa is expected from NICE later this year.

The NICE judgment on Iressa comes after European regulators approved the drug for patients whose tumors have an EGFR mutation. That decision, as Reuters points out, reversed the fortunes of a drug that had proven of little benefit to the overall population of lung cancer patients. So, Iressa's victory at NICE is not only a victory for AstraZeneca, but an affirmation of personalized cancer treatment--and another reminder that purveyors of pricey cancer meds have to be ready to wheel and deal, at least in the U.K.

- read the Reuters story