NICE rejects Novartis asthma drug for kids

Is another cost-sharing deal with the U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in Novartis' (NYSE:NVS) future? Could be, if the Swiss drugmaker wants to get NICE to approve its asthma drug Xolair for children on the National Health Service.

The cost-effectiveness watchdog ruled that Xolair offered "little additional benefit over existing drugs" for severe allergic asthma "in most children aged 6-11." And when NICE weighed the price, it found the balance wanting. "Its high cost also means that for the limited benefit it provides, [Xolair] does not present value for money," the agency says in a statement.

It's not the final determination from NICE; the drugmaker may have a chance to reverse the outcome. And given Novartis' focus on broadening Xolair's use to children--to boost its sales of the med above $211 million--the company just might wheel and deal. Novartis co-markets Xolair with Roche's Genentech in the U.S., but it has sole marketing rights outside the U.S.

Novartis has shown a willingness to negotiate with NICE. Most recently, the company persuaded the agency to accept the wet macular degeneration treatment Lucentis after an initial rejection. Novartis agreed that if the NHS paid for the first 12 Lucentis injections, it would foot the bill for any additional injections. What might a cost-sharing deal for Xolair look like? We'll have to wait and see.

- get the Novartis release
- see the draft guidance from NICE
- read the Reuters story