NICE gives nod to just one kidney cancer med

The U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence promised to reconsider four costly-but-cutting-edge kidney cancer drugs after its initial rejection fueled public outcry. Now, NICE has given its blessing to just one of the four: Pfizer's Sutent.

What did Pfizer have to do to get the nod? Make a cost-sharing deal, of course. The drugmaker will provide the first cycle of Sutent treatment for free. It usually costs more than $4,300. As you know, risk-sharing arrangements have helped other companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, get their expensive drugs onto NICE's formulary.

Left out in the cold for now are Roche's Avastin, Bayer's Nexavar, and Wyeth's Torisel treatments. The agency assessed all four treatments under its new "end-of-life" cost-benefit appraisal, which was supposed to make it easier for expensive cancer meds to get adopted. Patient groups hailed Sutent's OK, but said they'll continue to fight for the rest of the drugs, too.

Sutent will now be available on England's National Health Service. All four of the meds are already available in Wales, where the health minister ordered the NHS to fund the treatments.

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