NICE says no to expensive kidney cancer drugs

September 1, 2008

The advisory committee tothe UK’s National Health Service(NHS) has recommended that theNHS not pay for four new agentsproven effective in metastatic renalcell carcinoma. The four drugs arebevacizumab (Avastin), sorafenib(Nexavar), sunitinib (Sutent), andtemsirolimus (Torisel).

The advisory committee to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has recommended that the NHS not pay for four new agents proven effective in metastatic renal cell carcinoma. The four drugs are bevacizumab (Avastin), sorafenib (Nexavar), sunitinib (Sutent), and temsirolimus (Torisel).

In a written statement, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) stressed that their vote against the four agents is a preliminary one; the final guidance to the NHS will be rendered later this month and after public input.

Professor Peter Littlejohns, clinical and public health director for NICE, explained that “bevacizumab, sorafenib, sunitinib, or temsirolimus have the potential to extend progression-free survival (in renal cancer patients), but at a cost of £20,000- £35,000 per patient per year...although these treatments are clinically effective, they are not a cost-effective use of NHS resources.”

However, Professor Littlejohns said that NICE would consider proposals from the drugs manufacturers- Bayer/Onyx, Pfizer, Roche, and Wyeth-for reducing the cost of the drugs. To read the draft guidance, go to: http:// jsp?action=byID&o=11817

In an interview with a UK newspaper, Sir Michael Rawlins, NICE chairman, accused drug companies of driving up the price of medicines. Professor Rawlins said that pharmaceutical companies are too focused on maintaining profits, supporting marketing, and cushioning themselves against competition when patents expire (BBC News, August 17, 2008).