Novartis breast cancer drug Afinitor nixed by U.K. gatekeepers

The U.K.'s cost-effectiveness watchdog has turned away Afinitor for breast cancer. The Novartis ($NVS) drug doesn't offer enough value for the money, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence says.

NICE chief Andrew Dillon said in a statement that Afinitor "may offer a step change" in treatment of breast cancer tumors that have grown resistant to standard hormone therapy. But, he said, "the evidence highlighted uncertainty related to how much the treatment extends overall survival."

It's draft guidance, so there's room for change. Novartis told Pharma Times that it's "extremely disappointed" with NICE's decision. Patient groups were, too. But the company intends to offer up "as much information as we can to demonstrate the value of everolimus to patients and the NHS," said Ibrahim ElHoussieny, the company's oncology medical director in the U.K.

Novartis sees Afinitor as a key piece of its strategy for rebuilding sales after patent losses. The company's sales languished in 2012 because of generic competition, including rivals for one of its Diovan products. The drug brought in $800 million worldwide last year, and it's pegged as a potential $2-billion-a-year drug.

NICE can be a tough audience in breast cancer, though. As PMLive notes, the agency has stiff-armed several other advanced breast cancer treatments, including AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Faslodex, Eisai's Halaven, Roche's ($RHHBY) Avastin, and GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Tyverb (sold as Tykerb elsewhere).

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