UK's body NICE blocks Novartis's kidney cancer drug Afinitor

The U.K. health cost body Friday said it refuses to back Novartis AG's (NVS) kidney cancer drug Afinitor as a second line treatment due to lingering cost and efficiency concerns even as the Swiss pharma giant, which said it will appeal the verdict, has cut the price for the drug.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE, said that while it hasn't yet issued a final guidance whether or not to recommend to reimburse the cancer medicine, the body's chief executive Andrew Dillon said there is "still too much uncertainty around how cost effective Afinitor is to enable the committee to recommend the drug."

Novartis said it was disappointed and will file an appeal, adding that the drug is approved in the U.S. and the EU and is reimbursed in several European countries including Germany, Spain and Switzerland. Analysts expect Afinitor to become a blockbuster drug with more than $1 billion in annual sales.

"This decision means that patients aren't getting access to an effective cancer treatment that is widely available in other EU countries", said Thomas Powles, Consultant Medical Oncologist at Barts and the London NHS Trust.

"Afinitor works in patients with treatment resistant kidney cancer and it doubles the amount of time they can live without their disease progressing," he said.

According to Novartis estimates, every year more than 8,000 people are diagnosed with kidney cancer in the UK of which around half die. Compared to placebo treatment, Afinitor increases the time without tumor growth or death in patients to 4.9 months from 1.9 months, according to recent trials.

NICE's Dillion said that "we know that patients with renal cancer want to try all the treatment options. He added, however, that NICE has "to ensure that the money available to the [National Health Service] ... is used to best effect, particularly when funds, like the rest of the public sector, is under considerable financial pressure."

The decision on Afinitor follows on the heels of NICE's rejection of the use of a higher dose of cancer drug Glivec to treat stomach cancer patients. The rejection was also due to cost concerns, reflecting government efforts to curb health care costs.

-By Goran Mijuk, Dow Jones Newswires, +41 43 443 80 47;

goran.mijuk ( @ ) dowjones dot com

Copyright ?2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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