NICE backs Pfizer's Xalkori after squeezing out a new discount

While many of its peers have publicly attacked England’s price watchdog NICE in recent weeks, Pfizer ($PFE) is on a bit of a hot streak. In its second recommendation in as many months, the company won backing for its targeted lung cancer med Xalkori after offering a discount.

Following a new discount offer, Pfizer’s Xalkori for ALK-positive non-small-cell lung cancer will be available to about 459 patients in England and Wales, NICE said in a statement. The move follows a 2013 rejection for the drug on cost-effectiveness grounds, despite an initial discount offer.

A new price cut sealed the deal, NICE said, with Carole Longson, director of the health technology evaluation center, calling the medicine “a really valuable option.” NICE didn’t disclose a price, but said the drug typically costs £51,000 per treatment course. What’s more, because Xalkori is a pill, patients can avoid hospitals and free up staffs, NICE said.

Pfizer UK medical director of oncology David Montgomery called the decision “great news for eligible patients,” adding in a statement that Pfizer is “pleased NICE recognizes that crizotinib is both an efficacious and cost-effective treatment.” But considering Pfizer had to offer a further discount, Montgomery said that “it is not sustainable to ask companies to continuously drop the price for these medicines and it will impact our ability to make further medical progress if we do.”

The recommendation follows a July decision by NICE to recommend Pfizer's Bosulif--a previously rejected med for patients with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia--the institute's first about-face since starting drug reexaminations as part of its Cancer Drugs Fund overhaul. And Thursday's recommendation comes after the company in March won FDA backing for the Xalkori in ROS1-positive NSCLC.

Apart from Pfizer, drugmakers including Roche ($RHHBY), Eisai and AstraZeneca ($AZN) have been turned away at NICE in recent months, touching off protests and calls for reform. Eisai threatened legal action and said it’d have to reconsider its U.K. commitment over a delay of Lenvima, while Roche called for change just as the new system was getting underway at the end of July.

AstraZeneca, which received support from some U.K. officials during its Pfizer takeover defense, suffered a delay for its lung cancer med Tagrisso; it said it was “very disappointed” with that decision.

Joining a chorus that includes execs from other big name pharmas, Montgomery on Thursday called for a new review process. “We urge the Government and the NHS to work with us to find a suitable approach to ensure UK patients get access to modern medicines when they need them.“

- here’s NICE’s statement

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