Roche, NICE in Avastin data standoff

It's another blow for Roche's Avastin the U.K. The National Institute for Clinical Health and Excellence shot down the high-tech cancer med as a first-line treatment for lung and breast cancer, meaning the National Health Service won't pay for it. That's the second rejection at NICE for Avastin, which was also denied for colon cancer use.

The negative verdict came after NICE asked Roche for more data on the drug's clinical and cost-effectiveness--and Roche refused, figuring the data would just show that Avastin was too expensive to meet the agency's requirements. With the announcement came the expected rhetorical clash. "Other healthcare systems seem to think it's fairly priced," a Roche spokesman sniffed. NICE's chairman sniped, "Roche would rather not supply the drug in the U.K. than risk a negative opinion."

Avastin's thumbs-down comes at a time when expensive cancer meds are under increasing scrutiny in the U.K. And because NICE tends to be influential in the drug-reimbursement world, that scrutiny could follow cancer treatments to other countries, too.

- check out NICE's statement
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- see the Financial Times story