NICE ups and downs for Roche, Amgen, Merck Serono

When the U.K.'s cost-effectiveness agency speaks, headlines ensue. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has issued draft guidance for a handful of cancer drugs--some good, some not-so-good.

We'll start with the positive. Roche's MabThera--known as Rituxan in the U.S.--got a thumbs up for broader use in blood-cancer patients. The agency recommended the drug for first-line use with an array of chemotherapy drugs in patients with stage III and IV follicular lymphoma. Previously, NICE had already recommended the drug for use with one common chemo regimen, and this new review adds three other chemo regimens to MabThera's treatment options. The agency's Carole Longson said adding MabThera "to the chemotherapy regimes is good value for money."

But where NICE gives, it also takes away. The agency deemed Roche's Avastin to be too expensive for use in metastatic colorectal cancer, which affects some 20% to 55% of newly diagnosed patients, the agency said. The Swiss drugmaker can take solace in that Merck Serono's Erbitux and Amgen's ($AMGN) Vectibix were also roped into the refusal, although NICE was particularly unimpressed with the data on Avastin.

"We have already recommended 6 treatments for various stages of colorectal cancer and are disappointed not to be able to recommend [Erbitux], [Avastin] and [Vectibix] for this stage," NICE chief Andrew Dillon said in a statement, "but we have to be confident that the benefits justify the cost of the drugs." None of the drugmakers have proposed discounts--something that might change the calculus. Plus, the decision is a draft with public comment ongoing.

- see the PharmaTimes coverage
- get more from Reuters
- read the InPharm story
- check out the Daily Mail piece