Swayed by a discount, NICE backflips on Sanofi's oral Gaucher med Cerdelga

Just three months ago, England’s cost-effectiveness watchdogs handed down a "no" on covering Sanofi's Gaucher disease treatment Cerdelga. But they’re already singing a different tune.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence Wednesday issued a Final Evaluation Determination (PDF) on the med that backs it for long-term treatment in adults. But as usual, there’s a catch: The agency only recommends the drug when Sanofi provides it with an undisclosed, previously agreed-upon discount, or “patient access scheme.”

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It’s a flip-flop on NICE’s preliminary decision; the gatekeeper had cited “concerns about the true value for money” provided by the oral med, a follow-up to Sanofi's injectable therapy, Cerezyme. But NICE is known for changing its mind when discounts are involved, as Sanofi well knows: Just over a year ago, it swayed NICE on prostate cancer treatment Jevtana by steepening a price cut on the product.

If NICE’s new Cerdelga verdict holds through to final draft guidance, expected later this month, it’ll be a win for Sanofi in the rare disease department. The company is counting on Cerdelga to build on the €106 million it last year chipped in for rare disease unit Genzyme, one of the four Sanofi businesses CEO Olivier Brandicourt declared market leaders shortly after he took the helm in 2015.

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Over the last couple of years, Genzyme’s gone for a facelift or two. In July 2015, Brandicourt added specialty drugs—including oncology—to the Genzyme lineup to join their rare-disease counterparts under then-head David Meeker. This April, the French drugmaker announced Meeker would exit in June, making way for Bill Sibold—Genzyme’s multiple sclerosis, oncology and immunology head—to take over.