Pfizer, awaiting a final NICE verdict, doles out free Ibrance in the U.K.

Pfizer will offer Ibrance for free to U.K. women until six weeks after NICE issues its final guidance or on Sept. 30, whichever comes first.

After an initial snub, Pfizer is waiting on England’s cost watchdogs to come to a reimbursement conclusion on breast cancer-fighter Ibrance. But it's ending the wait for patients. 

The New York drugmaker is offering the med for free to women in the U.K. as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) deliberates on the blockbuster, a Pfizer spokeswoman said. The reason? Pfizer and NICE have scheduled a pause in their proceedings, giving Pfizer time to submit an updated evidence package for the cost-effectiveness gatekeeper's consideration—and the company doesn't want to stall access in the meantime. 

The program will close six weeks after NICE issues its final guidance or on Sept. 30—whichever comes first.

Pfizer made the decision after “acknowledging calls from physicians and patient groups across the U.K. for timely access” to Ibrance, the spokeswoman said. 

“Pfizer believes women with metastatic breast cancer deserve access as soon as possible to this innovative medicine that has been shown to significantly increase progression-free survival,” she added.

RELATED: NICE fulfills Pfizer exec's prophecy with Ibrance snub

NICE’s February rejection—which Pfizer itself predicted—sparked outcry among patient charities and advocacy groups. But as the body reasoned, £79,650 ($99,392) for a full course of treatment was just too high for routine NHS use—especially without data indicating that Ibrance’s average 10-month progression-free survival extension would result in an overall survival benefit.

RELATED: With Novartis' Kisqali, Pfizer faces its first in-class threat for Ibrance

Meanwhile, the arrival of Ibrance’s first in-class comepetitor—Novartis’ Kisqali—isn’t going to make Pfizer’s payer negotiations any easier. The Basel-based pharma consciously undercut its rival, rolling out a flexible pricing scheme it said would allow for an aggregate cost about 18% to 20% lower than Ibrance’s.

Pfizer, though, says it isn’t worried about the move. The company has successfully “managed … price competition in the past, and we will do it in the future,” innovative health president Albert Bourla told investors on the giant’s first-quarter conference call.