Price cuts weren't enough to persuade Britain's arbiter of medical treatments to recommend coverage for some expensive new medicines for kidney cancer by the country's health service.
The UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, concluded the evidence of patient benefit wasn't strong enough to justify the expense of Bayer's Nexavar, Wyeth's Torisel and Roche's Avastin, or to expanding coverage for Pfizer's Sutent as a back-up when other kidney cancer treatments fail. The makers of the drugs had appealed an earlier decision that went against them.
NICE is sometimes held up as an example of how the US might approach the systematic evaluation of new treatments to decide which ones are worth paying for--and which aren't. But critics of NICE, as well as its general approach, fault the decisions as bureaucratic rationing that fails to adequately consider the desires of individual patients.
Some advocates hoped that tweaking of the NICE's methods for evaluating treatments used at the end of life would lead to an easier time for medicines like these cancer drugs.
But, Peter Littlejohns, NICE's clinical director, said despite the changed guidance and price concessions from the drugmakers, "the benefit [from these drugs] was still too small, set against their cost," the Financial Times reported.
The director of the UK patient advocacy group Rarer Cancers Forum said in a statement, "This a deeply disappointing decision and a bitter blow for patients and their families." The group counts some of the affected drugmakers, including Pfizer and Roche, among its sponsors.
Treatment with the drugs can cost $30,000 or more and they may extend life by only a few months.