Pfizer's Sutent strategy pays off

Sutent performs for Pfizer strategy-wise--and in a newly released trial. First, the strategy--let's call it Never Give In, Never Never. To persuade the U.K.'s National Institute for Clinical Excellence that the cancer drug not only helped patients, but was cost-effective, too, Pfizer gave away doses for two years. The drugmaker handed out Sutent to regional health commissioners in the U.K., which aren't as strictly bound by NICE's decisions as the NHS is. That helped build evidence that the drug worked.

"Slowly but surely patients across the U.K. got access to Sutent," Rob Day, Pfizer's director of U.K. oncology, told Bloomberg (as quoted in the WSJ Health Blog. "There was more evidence once the drug was on the market for a longer period of time, and that additional clinical experience impacted the decision."

As you know, NICE had initially rejected high-tech kidney cancer drugs--and Sutent is one--on the grounds of cost-effectiveness. But after an outcry, the agency agreed to re-review the meds. The only one that got NICE's nod as a first-line treatment in patients with advanced kidney cancer? Sutent. It helped that Pfizer agreed to continue to foot the bill for the first course of treatment, bringing down the overall cost of Sutent therapy.

Now we can look for some case-building for Sutent as a pancreatic cancer treatment. A late-stage trial showed the drug to be effective at slowing the progression of the disease, so effective that the trial's monitoring committee recommended an early halt. As you know, pancreatic cancer is particularly deadly, and there are few treatments. Full trial results are expected to be presented at an upcoming scientific meeting, MarketWatch reports. Meanwhile, Pfizer is also testing Sutent against lung, colon, liver and prostate cancers.

- see the Health Blog post
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