May 7, 2009 / 6:49 AM / 11 years ago

UK cost agency rejects Bayer drug in liver cancer

* Nexavar not recommended by NICE for liver cancer

* Preliminary decision a setback for Bayer, Onyx

LONDON, May 7 (Reuters) - Britain’s healthcare cost-effectiveness watchdog said on Thursday it had recommended that Bayer AG’s BAYG.DE new drug Nexavar should not be given on the state health service to patients with liver cancer.

The preliminary recommendation, which is open to consultation, is a blow to Bayer and its partner Onyx Pharmaceuticals ONXX.O, who have already seen Nexavar turned down by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to treat kidney cancer.

Bayer said the latest NICE decision not to recommend the drug, known generically as sorafenib, for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma directly conflicted with current medical guidelines.

“Bayer Schering Pharma is gravely disheartened by this latest NICE announcement,” the company’s head of oncology in Britain, Nicole Farmer, said.

Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common form of liver cancer, accounting for 80 to 90 percent of all primary liver tumours.

Nexavar is one of Bayer’s top new drug hopes, along with anti-blood clotting pill Xarelto. It has proved successful against liver and kidney cancer and Bayer is also pursuing approvals for use against lung and breast tumours, though it failed to prove effective against melanoma in a recent trial.

The German drugmaker believes it can generate peak worldwide sales of 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion) a year from the drug.

The consultation period for NICE’s preliminary recommendation closes on May 29, with a second appraisal committee meeting scheduled for June 11. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Holmes)

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