* NICE reiterates drug costs too much for maintenance use
* Roche had appealed 2010 decision rejecting medicine
* Once-a-day pill still funded as second-line treatment
LONDON, June 29 Britain's health cost watchdog
has again rejected Roche's Tarceva pill for long-term
use in lung cancer patients who have had treatment to stabilise
their disease, because it is too costly for the benefit it
The decision is a blow for Swiss drugmaker, which had
appealed against an earlier rebuff from the National Institute
for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) handed down last year.
NICE, which decides if medicines should be paid for on the
state-funded National Health Service (NHS), said it was not able
to recommend the drug, also known as erlotinib, for maintenance
Tarceva is already backed as a second-line treatment for non
small cell lung cancer and Roche had hoped to win wider approval
for the once-daily pill as a long-term therapy for patients who
have already had chemotherapy.
Long-term maintenance treatment is a relatively new concept
in lung cancer care.
Roche estimates maintenance treatment with Tarceva can
potentially extend life by approximately 3.3 months in patients
with stable disease. NICE, however, said the evidence was not
sufficiently robust to demonstrate this.
The blockbuster pill is partnered with OSI Pharmaceuticals,
now part of Astellas , and had worldwide sales of $1.3
billion last year.
Its rejection for wider use in Britain comes despite a 14.5
percent price discount for the NHS, which reduces the price of a
pack of 30 tablets to 1394.96 pounds ($2,230).
NICE has previously recommended Eli Lilly's drug
Alimta as a maintenance therapy for a specific type of lung
cancer, but it said the evidence for using Tarceva was not as
($1 = 0.626 British Pounds)
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Holmes)