NICE spurns Avastin for bowel cancer

The U.K.'s cost-effectiveness watchdog has struck another blow against high-priced cancer meds. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has deemed Roche's Avastin too expensive for use in bowel cancer patients on the National Health Service. The rejection comes even after Roche offered to subsidize treatment with the drug.

The drugmaker said its "patient access package" brought the all-important cost per quality-adjusted life year--the formula NICE uses to determine yea or nay--down to $59,800, or £36,000. But that's still one-fifth higher than NICE's current threshold of £30,000. And NICE said Roche's subsidy plan was too complicated and that it deviated from "routine clinical practice."

This isn't the last word from NICE, however. It's just the agency's preliminary opinion. But if this debate goes the way of recent cancer drug rulings, Roche will have a lot to prove to change NICE's mind. The agency has rejected pricey cancer drugs right and left lately, most recently Bayer's liver cancer treatment Nexavar, which NICE nixed even after the company made a four-for-the-price-of-three offer.

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