New discount persuades NICE to bless J&J's Zytiga

Zytiga will get a green light for U.K. patients after all. Britain's cost-effectiveness watchdog reversed its decision against the Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) prostate cancer pill, thanks to the company's new discount offer. The about-face also follows a public outcry--complete with pointed criticism from a charity that backed research on the drug.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said J&J's Janssen unit delivered more details about Zytiga's benefits to patients, as well as clarification of how many patients could receive the drug. The company also revised its "patient access scheme," a.k.a. discount plan, NICE chief Andrew Dillon said in a statement.

"We are very pleased that Janssen's submission to our consultation means that we are able to produce draft guidance recommending [Zytiga]," Dillon said. "[I]t is an effective treatment, potentially extending life by more than three months, and it also allows patients to be treated at home as it can be taken orally."

Cancer Research UK, which lambasted NICE's earlier rejection, lauded the fact that the agency and Janssen came to terms. The organization had a special interest in Zytiga: Its scientists were key to the drug's development, and it helped support the first in-human trials. Now, the charity is using the Zytiga decision-making process to point up flaws in NICE's approach. And it calls for drugmakers to be "much more flexible and forthcoming" when setting their prices, to make sure governments can actually afford them.

- see the NICE statement
- get more from Cancer Research U.K.
- check out the Reuters news