NICE tells Roche Zelboraf costs too much

Roche ($RHHBY) thinks the U.K.'s NICE is not playing nice.

With its rejection today of Roche's melanoma treatment Zelboraf, the drug overseer has now snubbed 9 of 10 end-of-life cancer drugs, Reuters reports.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, says the drug works but is too pricey given the questions of its benefits in the long run. As such, it will not recommend that the state-run national health system (NHS) buy the drug from Roche, despite an undisclosed discount the drugmaker had offered.

At £1,750 ($2,700) for a week's worth, Zelboraf, also known as vemurafenib, is expensive. At £52,000 for an average treatment of 7 months, it is one of the most expensive treatments ever assessed by NICE, InPharm reports, pointing out that last year NICE rejected Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) melanoma vaccine Yervoy in draft guidance because of its £80,000 per patient price.

But Roche did not take the news well. Roche says the decision shows NICE's evaluation process just will not hold up under the country's new plan for "valued-based" pricing. The company was particularly annoyed given that British doctors have been prescribing the drug through the Cancer Drugs Fund, which the government established in transition to the 2014 value-based pricing plan. The pill has been approved in Europe, where it was lauded as an example of the kind of drug that can attack a disease based on a patient's genetics.

"Zelboraf ticks all the boxes when considering the types of medicines that value-based pricing aims to encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop," John Melville, Roche's U.K. managing director, tells Reuters. "Zelboraf is innovative and addresses an unmet need."

It is not the first time NICE and Roche have butted heads. The agency already turned its back on Roche's cancer drug Avastin, which is the company's best-seller.

- read the Reuters story
- get more from the InPharma story

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