NICE green-lights 5 meds, with discounts turning the tide on PCSK9, Novartis drugs


England’s cost watchdogs can often be stingy when it comes to handing out go-aheads to drugmakers. But discounts from pharma had them feeling generous Wednesday.

The National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence (NICE) published new guidelines backing National Health Service use of 5 meds, verdicts that will benefit Novartis ($NVS), AbbVie ($ABBV), Sanofi ($SNY) and Amgen ($AMGN).

The latter two companies both managed about-faces from NICE, which had earlier turned down their pricey PCSK9 meds--dubbed Praluent and Repatha, respectively. Back in May, though, the body had signaled that it would be willing to reverse course, provided the drugmakers lowered prices to reduce the dramatic gap between their £4,000-per-patient-per-year cost and the £350 sticker on Merck & Co.'s ($MRK) cholesterol fighter Zetia. 

Novartis also managed a NICE turnaround, scoring a nod for targeted lung cancer therapy Zykadia in adults with ALK-positive non-small-cell lung cancer who hadn't been treated with Pfizer’s ($PFE) Xalkori. The second piece of good news for the Swiss pharma giant was a NICE endorsement for melanoma therapy Mekinist, to be used in tandem with Novartis’ Tafinlar.

The endorsements will boost Novartis’ oncology unit, which has been a strong focus for the company since the multibillion-dollar asset swap that brought GlaxoSmithKline’s ($GSK) oncology portfolio--containing Tafinlar and Mekinist, among other assets--to Basel.

Rounding things out was AbbVie’s Humira, which nabbed a favorable opinion in active moderate to severe hidradenitis. That painful skin condition is just one of many diseases Humira boasts approval to treat, which has helped it become the world’s best-selling drug.

- see NICE's guidance for PraluentRepathaZykadiaMekinist and Humira

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