NICE denies AZ breast cancer drug, OKs Roche arthritis med

The U.K. drug cost-effectiveness watchdog zeroed in on two Big Pharma companies' drugs today, sending one of them packing with a negative opinion and giving the other a nod with certain limits on use. The U.K. continues to keep the effectiveness bar high for paying for new meds, much to the dismay of drugmakers that are hungry for new sources of revenue as they face thinning profit margins.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) rejected AstraZeneca's ($AZN) breast cancer drug Faslodex, recommending that the NHS not pay for the med because it doesn't offer "significantly" better results for patients over existing drugs. The recommendation made official a denial that was largely expected after NICE gave a negative opinion of the use of the drug last month, even after AZ provided data that the drug could extend the lives of patients better than existing therapies.

"While there is evidence that fulvestrant can delay the growth of breast cancer, our independent advisory committee found that when used according to its marketing authorisation, its effectiveness is uncertain compared to aromatase inhibitors, which are currently the preferred treatment options on the NHS," Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, stated. "Confidence about the additional benefits new treatments bring is important both for patients and for those who have responsibility for managing the resources available to the NHS."

Roche got better news from NICE, but not great news. The group has backed use of the Swiss drug giant's treatment RoActemra for a form of arthritis in youngsters called systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, but the recommendation came with certain caveats and Roche's agreement to offer the drug at a discount. (The exact price wasn't disclosed.) Its caveats include that the drug only be used in kids aged 2 years or older and only after specific previous treatments failed to delivery results for them.

- here's the NICE release on Faslodex
- see NICE's release on RoActemra
- check out The Pharma Letter's coverage
- and this Bloomberg article

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