NICE nixes Erbitux for head and neck cancer

Good news: The U.K.'s National Institute for Clinical Excellence is using a new cost-effectiveness analysis designed to make more end-of-life drugs available. The bad: Erbitux still didn't make the grade for treatment of head and neck cancer. NICE appraisers said they were uncertain the pricey drug was clinically effective enough to beat out existing meds.

"[Approving Erbitux] would mean the NHS making significant funds available for a very expensive treatment which may or may not benefit individual patients," NICE chief Andrew Dillon said in a statement. "Those funds would not then be available for treating other conditions with greater and more certain benefits for other patients."

The decision is a blow to Merck Serono, which markets the drug in U.K. and is shooting for annual Erbitux sales of 1 billion euros within the next couple of years. Well, at least the company got the NICE thumbs-up for Erbitux as a colon cancer treatment earlier this month. Stay tuned.

- read the release from NICE
- see the story at Pharmafocus