NICE nixes Nexavar for liver cancer

The U.K.'s cost watchdogs strike again. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence gave Bayer's cancer drug Nexavar the heave-ho, saying it shouldn't be given to National Health Service patients with liver cancer. Though the decision isn't final--it's open to negotiation--it's a setback for Bayer and its developer-partner Onyx Pharmaceuticals. NICE already turned Nexavar down for use in kidney patients.

"Bayer Schering Pharma is gravely disheartened by this latest NICE announcement," the company's head of oncology in Britain, Nicole Farmer, told Reuters. NICE's decision contradicts current medical guidelines, the company said.

We can't help but think NICE is playing hardball to get price concessions from Bayer; after all, the agency has been pushing drugmakers for discounts and cost-sharing deals ever since Johnson & Johnson made its first innovative offer on Velcade back in 2007. (That was a money-back guarantee, incidentally.) Since then, Roche offered rebates on its cancer med Tarceva to make it more cost-competitive, and Celgene made a cost-sharing deal on Revlimid. Will Bayer come up with a sweetener to get NICE to change its mind? We'll have to wait and see.

- read the WSJ article