Bayer's better Nexavar offer not NICE enough

Britain's healthcare cost-effectiveness watchdog strikes again. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence proclaimed Bayer's Nexavar too expensive for use in liver cancer patients on the National Health Service, despite Bayer's four-for-the-price-of-three offer. The price, which still runs about $4,500 per month, was "simply too high," NICE said, adding that the NHS's money would be better spent on cancer treatments that offer more value for the money.

Of course this isn't the first time NICE has rejected a pricey, cutting-edge cancer treatment. Over the past couple of years, the agency has rejected one drug after another. But in some cases, the treatments end up on the NHS formulary after drugmakers come back with a better price. The NICE rejections have even spawned some innovative risk-sharing agreements, under which a NICE only pays if a drug works (Johnson & Johnson's multiple myeloma treatment Velcade) or the drugmaker foots the bill for the first round of treatement (Pfizer's kidney cancer med Sutent).

Nor is this the first time that a drugmaker's first discount offer was rejected, either. After NICE first said no to GlaxoSmithKline's breast cancer treatment Tyverb, the company came back with a cost-sharing offer. NICE still said no. So Bayer needn't despair at the rejection of its offer to throw in an additional pack of Nexavar for every three packs bought by the NHS. It's not alone. And there's still hope: It could make a better offer on appeal.

- get the news from BBC
- see the Telegraph column in favor of NICE's decision
- check out the Wall Street Journal coverage