UK okays Alexion drug costing up to $2 mln but wants price cut

LONDON, Sept 22 (Reuters) - A new drug to treat a rare inherited bone disorder that was developed by Alexion Pharmaceuticals and could cost up to 1.5 million pounds ($2 million) a year per patient has been cleared for use by Britain’s health cost watchdog.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which had turned down Strensiq as too expensive in December, said on Thursday it had decided the drug could offer a lifeline for a handful of babies and young children.

But it urged the U.S. rare diseases specialist, which is already offering the National Health Service a confidential discount to cap costs for each patient, to find further ways to reduce the price.

Strensiq costs 58.80 pounds per milligram, meaning it would cost 165,000 pounds a year for babies weighing up to 9 kg and as much as 1.5 million pounds for adults and young people up to 80 kg, NICE said.

The NICE recommendation covers the medicine’s use in perinatal- and infantile-onset hypophosphatasia, a condition affecting the development of bone. It is estimated that only one to seven people are diagnosed each year with this form of hypophosphatasia in England.

Left untreated, hypophosphatasia causes weakening of bones and can lead to chronic debilitating pain, muscle weakness, generalised seizures because of vitamin B6 deficiency, as well as life-threatening renal and respiratory complications.

$1 = 0.7654 pounds Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by David Clarke