UK’s NICE backs Iressa after Astra sets fixed cost

* Cost fixed irrespective of length of treatment

* No charge for patients using Iressa for less than 3 months

* NICE also recommends Roche’s Xeloda in gastric cancer

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON, May 27 (BestGrowthStock) – AstraZeneca Plc’s (AZN.L: ) cancer
pill Iressa has been recommended for use in Britain’s state-run
National Health Service (NHS) after the drugmaker agreed an
unusual fixed cost deal.

The arrangement highlights the mounting pressure on firms to
agree favourable “patient access schemes” in order to win
approval from the National Institute for Health and Clinical
Excellence (NICE), which decides if drugs are cost effective.

Iressa will be supplied at a fixed cost of 12,200 pounds
($17,560), irrespective of the duration of treatment, and there
will be no charge for patients who are treated for less than
three months.

“It has been designed to ensure value for money for the NHS
and to enable the budget impact to be predicted more
accurately,” said AstraZeneca spokeswoman Abigail Baron.

While NICE does not negotiate or set prices, it does take
special offers into account when deciding whether to recommend
drugs for reimbursement on the NHS.

In future the watchdog could play a more direct role in
determining prices under government plans to move to a system of
“value-based pricing”. [ID:nLDE64O1FW]

NICE said on Thursday its draft recommendation on Iressa,
which is also known as gefitinib, was open to consultation
before publication of final guidance later this year.

NEW PRICING

The agency had asked AstraZeneca in January for information
on Iressa. This was provided along with the new pricing offer.

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in Britain,
with around 38,000 people diagnosed every year. The most common
type is called non-small cell lung cancer.

Iressa — a once-daily pill — was approved by European
regulators last July for adults with locally advanced or
metastatic lung cancer whose tumours have an EGFR mutation.

A mutation in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is
a characteristic occurring in around 13 percent of lung cancers
in Europe, and studies have shown these types of tumours are
particularly sensitive to Iressa.

The European regulator’s decision effectively revived the
fortunes of a drug that had been largely written off after it
failed to show significant benefits in the overall population of
lung cancer patients in a clinical tests five years ago.

In Britain, NICE has already recommended various injectable
treatments for lung cancer, but Carole Longson, health
technology evaluation centre director at NICE, said Iressa
offered an advantage because it is taken in tablet form.

Separately, NICE said it had also recommended Roche’s
(ROG.VX: ) established cancer drug Xeloda as a first-line
treatment for inoperable advanced gastric cancer, when used in
combination with platinum-based chemotherapy.

Gastric, or stomach, cancer affects approximately 8,200
people in Britain every year.

Stock Market Today

(Editing by David Holmes)
($1=.6947 Pound)

UK’s NICE backs Iressa after Astra sets fixed cost