Roche’s Avastin again spurned by British cost body

* NICE says drug not cost-effective for bowel cancer

* Rebuff comes despite revised pricing offer from company

* Avastin may be made available under new Cancer Drugs Fund

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON, Aug 24 (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s healthcare cost agency
NICE rejected Roche’s (ROG.VX: ) drug Avastin for advanced bowel
cancer again on Tuesday, saying it was too expensive, despite a
fresh price deal offered by the manufacturer.

The decision highlights a continuing battle over access to
pricey cancer medicines on the state health service in Britain,
where drugs that can extend life by several months, and are
often used widely elsewhere, are sometimes deemed too expensive.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
(NICE) first rebuffed Avastin four years ago and the latest
rejection is a blow to the Swiss drugmaker, as well as patient
groups that had been pushing hard for a change of heart.

Andrew Dillon, NICE chief executive, noted the cost watchdog
recommended several other drugs for bowel cancer, including
Merck KGaA’s (MRCG.DE: ) Erbitux, but said Roche failed to show
its “complex” price scheme would make Avastin cost-effective.

“We have to be confident that the benefits justify the
considerable cost of this drug,” Dillon said in a statement.

Roche originally proposed a patient access scheme that would
supply Avastin at 20,800 pounds ($32,430) per patient for one
year, after which it would be free. The cost of accompanying
oxaliplatin chemotherapy would also be reimbursed by Roche.

The new offer would have included these elements plus an
additional upfront payment to the National Health Service (NHS)
for each person starting on Avastin.

The latest draft guidance from NICE is subject to
consultation and appeal.

CANCER DRUGS FUND

Roche said the fact Britain was now virtually the only
country in the developed world not to provide Avastin as part of
state healthcare showed that the country’s reimbursement system
was not working for end-of-life cancer treatments.

Barbara Moss, a 55-year-old bowel cancer patient who
benefited from Avastin after paying for it out of her own
pocket, said the NICE decision was a huge disappointment.

“It seems immoral to me that, as a result of negative NICE
decisions like this one, people’s choice of living or dying
depends on whether they can afford a drug, because it isn’t
available to them on the NHS,” she said.

The charity Bowel Cancer UK said it hoped there would soon
be fairer access to treatments, following the establishment by
the coalition government of a Cancer Drugs Fund, which would
provide money for drugs that have not been cleared by NICE.
Doctors will decide locally how the money is spent.
[ID:nLDE66Q1V0]

Since 2002, NICE has made recommendations on 94 cancer
drugs, of which 66 have been recommended for use.
($1=.6413 Pound)
(Editing by Sharon Lindores)

Roche’s Avastin again spurned by British cost body