NICE rejects pricey Lilly newcomer Portrazza

Eli Lilly ($LLY) is hoping its newest cancer launch, Portrazza, can keep powering volume gains for the company. But England’s cost-effectiveness gatekeepers are throwing up a hurdle.

Thursday, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence released draft guidance recommending against NHS backing for the drug in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, citing its price tag.

The way NICE sees it, adding Portrazza to chemo tandem gemcitabine plus cisplatin would cost the NHS a lofty sum of between £110,000 and £170,000 per quality adjusted life year gained--and the cost is “likely to be towards the upper end of this range,” the watchdog wrote.

And on top of that, while NICE deemed Portrazza “innovative,” it declared that the med didn’t meet its criteria to be considered a “life-extending, end of life treatment.”

It's not the first time Portrazza's price has raised an eyebrow. Last year, doctors published a paper in JAMA Oncology asserting that it should cost about $9,600 less per month, especially considering that it extends life expectancy by only weeks--and for only for about half the patients treated with it.

But it's still bad news for Lilly, which is looking to the therapy--as well as fellow cancer med Cyramza and a trio of new diabetes products--to continue driving revenue growth going forward. In Q1, that group helped grow the Indianapolis drugmaker’s top-line haul by 8%, and with newly launched Portrazza still in the early stages of its launch, Lilly wants to see that figure keep rising.

That’s not to say NICE will necessarily continue standing in its way. It’s now opened up a consultation period, which drugmakers often use to negotiate discounts--or “patient access schemes,” as NICE calls them. And the body did hand down some good news for Lilly earlier in the week: In final guidance, it recommend diabetes drug Jardiance, along with its SGLT2 brethren from Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and AstraZeneca ($AZN).

- read the NICE guidance (PDF)

Special Report: The top 15 pharma companies by 2014 revenue - Eli Lilly 

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