Roche's Tarceva wins NICE nod for first-line use

The U.K.'s cost-effectiveness watchdog has changed its mind about Tarceva. After an initial draft guidance rejecting the lung cancer treatment, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence now says Tarceva should be available as a first-line treatment.

NICE's approval applies to patients with EGFR-positive non-small cell lung cancer. When the agency first reviewed Tarceva, it said it could not recommend the drug unless Roche ($RHHBY) provided more convincing information. "During this period, the manufacturer of [Tarceva] provided these further analyses and the committee were able to recommend [it] as a cost effective use of NHS recourses," NICE's Carole Longson said in a statement.

The next step is NICE's final guidance. If Tarceva comes through, it will compete with AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Iressa, which is also approved as a first-line option for EGFR-positive lung cancer. There's no data comparing the two drugs, NICE noted, but the agency is persuaded that they are "very similar and equally as effective," Longson said. Tarceva already has NICE approval as a second-line treatment.

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