LONDON, March 7 Britain's health
cost-effectivness watchdog NICE said it planned to recommend the
use of Novartis's severe asthma drug Xolair after
prevaricating for months over whether it should be paid for on
the taxpayer-funded National Health Service (NHS).
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
(NICE) said on Thursday it had reversed a November decision in
the light of extra analyses and a move by Novartis to offer a
so-called patient access scheme to discount Xolair's list price.
Xolair works by blocking immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies
from attaching to allergens. When IgE attaches to an allergen,
it sets off a process that eventually leads to an allergic
Asthma campaign groups welcomed NICE's decision.
"Xolair is the only treatment that works for some people
with severe allergic asthma who would otherwise be virtually
housebound because of breathlessness and living in constant fear
of the next asthma attack," Samantha Walker of the charity
Asthma UK said in a statement.
NICE said in November 2012 that it planned to recommend
against the use of Xolair in the NHS, reversing an earlier plan
to recommend it.
In a statement on Thursday, NICE said it had now decided to
recommend Xolair, known generically as omalizumab, as an option
for treating certain types of severe, persistent, allergic
asthma in people aged six years and older as an add-on to the
maximum standard therapy.
It said this would be allowed only if Novartis makes
omalizumab available with the agreed patient access scheme
discount, but did not disclose the level of that discount.
Xolair's list price is 256.15 pounds ($390) for a 150
milligram (mg) vial and 128.07 pounds ($190) for a 75 mg vial.
The dosage administered is 75-600 mg every two or four weeks, up
to a maximum dosage of 600 mg every two weeks.
This means the cost of the drug ranges from around 1,665
pounds ($2,500) per patient per year to approximately 26,640
pounds ($40,300) per patient per year.
NICE said its final decision had not yet been issued in
guidance to the NHS and noted that it could still change in the
event of an appeal. It said final guidance is expected to be
published in April 2013.