Novartis discount fails to persuade NICE on Afinitor in breast cancer

To win over U.K. cost-effectiveness gatekeepers, Novartis ($NVS) cut Afinitor's price. Unfortunately for the Swiss drugmaker, it didn't work. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) still turned down a new use for the drug in HER2-negative breast cancer.

There's no doubt that Afinitor bears a rich sticker price. A 30-pill pack of 10 mg tablets costs £2,970 ($4,600), NICE says. How much Novartis knocked off the treatment cost isn't public; NICE's discount offers--or patient access schemes, as the agency calls them--are confidential. Whatever it was, it wasn't enough to make Afinitor worth it for women with advanced HER2-negative, hormone-receptor-positive cancer, NICE chief Sir Andrew Dillon said in a statement.

NICE's independent appraisal committee acknowledged that Afinitor could delay cancer growth by about four months, but cited "uncertainties" about its ability to prolong patients' lives, compared with the standard treatment Aromasin (exemestane). "Using the evidence that was available, the committee concluded that everolimus is not a cost-effective option for the NHS," Dillon said.

Afinitor's rejection is just the latest for breast cancer treatments at NICE. Roche's ($RHHBY) Avastin, Eisai's Halaven and GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Tyverb have all had their turn. With breast cancer as the U.K.'s most common cancer--and other countries watching NICE decisions closely--those decisions have dashed hopes for drugmakers struggling to replace patent-cliff losses.

Novartis itself has been looking for a big boost from breast cancer for Afinitor. Analysts figure the indication could add $1.5 billion to the drug's global peak sales. Its other plans for Afinitor also took a hit recently, with the drug's failure in a liver cancer trial.

- see the release from NICE

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