AstraZeneca's SGLT2 contender Forxiga wins broader NICE backing, giving more U.K. patients access


Just days after winning groundbreaking coverage for a key cancer med, AstraZeneca ($AZN) on Friday notched another win from England’s cost-effectiveness watchdogs. In draft guidance, NICE recommended the company’s promising SGLT2 diabetes drug Forxiga as part of a triple-drug regimen.

With a final sign-off, the med would be available to millions of diabetes patients through NHS England, joining SGLT2 competitors from Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ). In its analysis, NICE said its committee found “no discernible differences in costs and effectiveness” between the meds in the class.

NICE recommended Forxiga to be used as an add-on to the commonly used combo of metformin and a sulfonylurea.

Friday’s "final draft" guidance follows a 2013 recommendation in a narrower set of patients, and will likely boost the fast-launching Forxiga. The drug saw sales grow 88% in this year’s first half to $376 million.

Forxiga, sold as Farxiga in the U.S., is part of an up-and-coming drug class that also includes Johnson & Johnson's Invokana and Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim's Jardiance. The latter drug has proven to reduce cardiovascular risks--a first for a diabetes med--and analysts figure the entire class could benefit from the distinction.

As part of its analysis, NICE’s committee heard input from a patient expert who felt Forxiga is “effective and easy and flexible to take, which gave her more confidence in self-managing her disease.” The expert also appreciated a needle-free option “to delay progression to injectable treatments such as insulin.”

While NICE decisions directly affect patients in the U.K., other countries use the agency’s assessments to shape coverage, giving added gravity to NICE judgments.

The positive recommendation comes on the heels of a first-of-a-kind decision on Monday, when NICE added AZ’s lung cancer med Tagrisso to the reworked Cancer Drugs Fund. For that setup, patients will be able to access the med through NHS England while investigators seek to learn more about its effectiveness in the real world.

Both decisions could provide some sales fuel to the London-based Big Pharma, which is shooting for $45 billion in 2023 sales as part of its Pfizer ($PFE) takeover defense. Recent setbacks, including some disappointing trial results for its blood thinner Brilinta, have put that goal in jeopardy.

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