NICE sings a different tune for Bayer's prostate cancer drug Xofigo

Bayer has had a tough time winning approval from U.K. cost-effectiveness gatekeepers for its prostate cancer therapy Xofigo, with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) rejecting the drug last March and then making a partial turnabout in December. Now, the company is celebrating a bright point for Xofigo as NICE changed its tune and backed the drug for certain patients.

The U.K. cost watchdog greenlighted the drug for men who have already been treated with chemotherapy docetaxel, as long as Bayer provides Xofigo (radium-223) at an undisclosed discount through a patient access scheme, PharmaTimes reports. The company sets a 6-month course of the med, which uses targeted radiation to kill tumor cells to penetrate the bone, at around £24,240 ($36,928).

"We are pleased that the evidence for radium-223 dichloride was strong enough to issue a provisional recommendation. The information provided by Bayer suggests that radium-223 is effective in delaying the progression of prostate cancer and can prolong survival," NICE director Carole Longson said in a statement.

Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers

NICE's decision bodes well for Bayer as it looks to expand sales for the drug after snatching it up from Norway's Algeta in 2009. Bayer in 2013 shelled out $2.9 billion for the Norwegian drugmaker, gaining full access to Xofigo and its blockbuster potential. Bayer sees more than $1 billion in peak sales for Xofigo and is working hard to increase the med's reach, combining Xofigo in clinical trials with other prostate cancer meds including Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) fast-growing Zytiga.

An endorsement from NICE also helps Bayer move one step closer toward achieving lofty sales goals for some of its best-selling new meds, which include Xofigo and blockbusters Xarelto and Eylea. Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers in March said the company's Big 5 will help Bayer chart an average of 8% growth in its pharma unit through 2016. And if all goes to plan, the group should bring in about €2.8 billion this year, the company said.

"We're optimistic for all our subgroups and see continuing potential for further sales and earnings growth in the medium term," Dekkers said earlier this year.

Meanwhile, another prostate cancer drug did not fare as well with the U.K. cost watchdog. NICE this week made a U-turn on Ferring's Firmagon (degarelix), deciding it was not a cost-effective treatment for advanced prostate cancer compared with the current standard of care, the agency said in a statement. NICE last August agreed to reconsider the drug after it was rejected for routine use by the National Health Service.

- read the PharmaTimes story
- here's the NICE statement

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