ESMO: AstraZeneca eyes payer boost with Tagrisso's latest survival win

Parc de la Ciutadella Barcelona
AstraZeneca presented first-line overall survival data for Tagrisso at the ESMO congress in Barcelona. (traumschoen/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

BARCELONA—AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso is already rolling in previously untreated, EGFR-mutated lung cancer, but gold-standard survival data could help spur additional reimbursement around the world.

Saturday at the European Society for Medical Oncology annual meeting, the British drugmaker touted results showing that using Tagrisso instead of older TKI inhibitors Tarceva from Roche or Iressa from AZ could cut patients’ risk of death by 20%.

Tagrisso extended patients’ lives by a median 38.6 months, compared with a median 31.8 months for the older therapies. And 54% of Tagrisso patients were alive three years post-treatment, versus 44% of those on the standard-of-care therapies.

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RELATED: ESMO: AstraZeneca's Tagrisso bests rivals at holding off EGFR lung cancer growth

The data pad AstraZeneca’s case that Tagrisso should be the go-to in front-line patients—one it began building at ESMO two years back. There, it showed that Tagrisso could cut the risk of disease progression or death by 54% when pitted against Tarceva and Iressa, and that it could stave off disease progression for more than 8 months longer than those meds could.

But despite those results, there are plenty of countries that aren’t yet reimbursing for Tagrisso in the first-line setting. The drug is approved “in over 45 different countries, but we only have reimbursement in about a dozen countries,” Dave Fredrickson, executive vice president and global head of AstraZeneca’s oncology business unit, said.

In those countries that have green-lighted the drug but aren’t yet covering it, “the overall survival data will absolutely help us in our conversations with payers,” he added. “While progression-free survival benefits don’t necessarily always fit neatly into value dossiers and into establishing the value of medicines, overall survival is a universally accepted outcome and not one that can be disputed.”

RELATED: AstraZeneca's Tagrisso just got the lung cancer nod it needs to hit $3B in sales

The markets where Tagrisso is already reimbursed, on the other hand, are big ones, including the U.S., Japan and Germany. Those countries helped the drug’s first-half sales surge to $1.41 billion. That haul marked an 86% leap over 2018’s first-half tally, and it involved a 16% increase between the first and second quarters “partly reflecting continued underlying demand growth,” according to AZ.

And the company doesn’t expect the drug to stop there. “When we first were approved with Flaura, we had sales globally of about $1 billion, and what I had said was that I see a line of sight into Tagrisso being a $4 billion drug,” Fredrickson said, adding, “I would say that we are on track to achieve that.”

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