NICE rejects J&J's Zytiga as too expensive

The U.K.'s cost-effectiveness gatekeepers want to shut out Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) new prostate cancer pill. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence issued draft guidance recommending against Zytiga use, saying that the drug doesn't work well enough to justify its price. And that's after J&J offered a discount to help sway the agency in its favor.

CEO Andrew Dillon acknowledged that Zytiga could: a., extend life by more than three months, compared with placebo, and b., make treatment easier for patients because it's a pill, not an infusion. "However, it is an expensive drug and the independent advisory committee that made this decision did not feel the drug provided enough benefit to patients to justify the price ... even with the discount that the manufacturer has offered."

It's the second new prostate cancer treatment that NICE has rejected in recent months; the agency recently nixed Sanofi's ($SNY) Jevtana, citing its cost and potential side effects. Jevtana's cost was pegged at about ₤22,000 per year, or about $34,000. NICE figured Zytiga's cost per quality-adjusted life year would be ₤63,200, including J&J's discount, or almost $100,000.

The Zytiga rejection stirred up more than the usual share of opposition, Reuters reports. That's because it was discovered in London, and U.K. groups, including Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council, helped fund clinical trials. "We feel extremely let down," Harpal Kumar, the cancer charity's chief executive, told the news service. Prostate Cancer Charity's CEO said NICE's choice could bar British patients from "one of the biggest breakthroughs in the treatment of the disease for many years."

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