Discount wins NICE over to earlier use of Bristol's RA med Orencia

It's been a long time coming, but Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Orencia finally won a new thumbs up from U.K. cost-effectiveness watchdogs. The difference: A new discount, size unspecified, that put the rheumatoid arthritis drug more in line with its peers.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has been snubbing Orencia for RA since 2007. That's when NICE rejected the Bristol-Myers drug--but recommended rivals from Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) (Humira), Amgen ($AMGN) (Enbrel) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) (Remicade). In 2010, NICE allowed Orencia for patients who've failed on TNF inhibitors and can't use Rituxan--but not for routine second-line use.

NICE recommendations opens the door for the U.K.'s National Health Service to use and pay for drugs. The agency is also closely watched in other countries, which often choose to adopt NICE's decisions as their own.

Now, thanks to a "patient access scheme," NICE recommends Orencia as a second-line drug, for patients who've failed on so-called DMARDs (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs). As PM Live notes, that puts the Bristol-Myers drug on equal footing with Humira and Enbrel, as well as Roche's ($RHHBY) Actemra and UCB's Cimzia. Orencia's usual cost in the U.K. is £12,000 ($19,292), Reuters says; the discount is confidential.

The NICE guidance is a draft, so Orencia won't immediately hit the National Health Service formulary. Final guidance is expected sometime next year.

- see the release from NICE
- read the Reuters news
- get more from PM Live