Another blow from U.K. cost-effectiveness regulators for Lucentis: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has given its final "No" to the drug for treatment of diabetic macular edema. Diabetes and blindness charities are up in arms, calling on the drug's maker, Novartis ($NVS), and NICE to negotiate a pricing agreement that would make Lucentis acceptable for that use.
NICE chief Andrew Dillon said in a statement that laser treatment is a more cost-effective option for patients with diabetic macular edema. "Although [Lucentis] has been shown in some clinical trials to be an effective treatment for DMO," the cost wasn't justified, Dillon said. Novartis' numbers put the cost at the high end of an acceptable range, the company didn't account for the fact that most patients with the condition need injections in both eyes, rather than just one eye. Adding that into the equation put Lucentis' cost out of range.
Novartis expressed disappointment with the decision, but it promised to continue working with NICE in the hopes of getting the treatment to DMO patients. Diabetes U.K. and three other charities are campaigning for Lucentis, too, asking Novartis for a patient access scheme that meets with approval of NICE and the Department of Health. "Such a scheme would reduce the cost of this treatment to the NHS and ensure the maximum number of people with DMO can benefit ... without delay," Diabetes U.K. said in a statement.