NICE rejects kidney cancer meds, again

Another victory for Pfizer in the U.K. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence once again decided against three kidney cancer drugs, leaving Pfizer's Sutent as the only cutting-edge treatment on the National Health Service formulary. Left out in the cold are Roche's Avastin, Bayer's Nexavar and Wyeth's Torisel.

As you know, the fight over kidney-cancer meds has been raging since last year, when NICE considered all four meds--and rejected all four. Eventually, the cost-effectiveness watchdog changed its mind about Sutent when Pfizer offered to pay for the first cycle of treatment.

The agency recently revised its guidelines for end-of-life treatments, but the three rejects still didn't qualify. Avastin couldn't even be reconsidered: The new rules only apply to drugs for "small patient populations." Because Avastin is approved for other, more widespread conditions, it's not eligible.

Roche's U.K. chief John Melville called the decision "entirely illogical," saying that Avastin "demonstrates the same value to the NHS as [Sutent] and this guidance goes against the spirit of end of life criteria which were devised for this very setting." Presumably, however, NICE might change its mind again if Roche cut the price enough. We'll have to see what happens.

- see the Wyeth release
- get NICE's guidance (pdf)
- check out the story in The Telegraph
- read the Reuters piece