NICE panel likes Astellas' Xtandi

Xtandi, the prostate cancer drug from Astellas, is a pill, and that is a benefit to patients in the eyes of an independent committee for the U.K.'s price watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). But then, so is Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) competitor Zytiga, which NICE has already approved. The difference is that Xtandi can be taken after eating, an advantage the makes it more convenient in the eyes of NICE evaluators who have favored its use in the U.K.

NICE's draft guidance recommends the drug as an option for treating hormone relapsed prostate cancer in adults if their disease has progressed during or after one docetaxel-containing chemotherapy regimen, reports PharmaTimes. The committee noted that Xtandi can control the cancer longer because there is not a concern of liver toxicity requiring the dose to be reduced, as can be the case with Zytiga. The recommendation also comes with the proviso that patients get the discount the drugmaker has agreed to as part of its patient access scheme.

Both Xtandi and Zytiga have been big sellers since hitting the market. Zytiga was approved by the FDA in 2011 for use when other treatment was unsuccessful, and then late last year it also won FDA approval as a first-line use in prostate cancer. Xtandi, which Astellas shares with Medivation ($MDVN), was approved by the FDA in 2012. While it followed Zytiga onto the market, some analysts think it will overtake its rival in sales and have pegged peak earnings at more than $2 billion a year.

The NICE committee recommendation was praised by Prostate Cancer UK, which had also pushed for Zytiga. NICE reversed an earlier decision and approved Zytiga in May after the drugmaker came back with more data and a discount for that drug. Owen Sharp, the group's leader, urged NICE to confirm the recommendation for Xtandi quickly. He told PharmaTimes doctors need options to "extend the lives of men with this disease when other options have run out."

- here's the PharmaTimes story

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