* Broker survey finds primary care trusts wary on Sativex
* GW Pharma says “very pleased” with drug’s launch to date
* Bayer is UK marketing partner for under-the-tongue spray
LONDON, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Four months into its launch, GW Pharmaceuticals Plc's GWP.L pioneering cannabis drug Sativex is getting a mixed reception from healthcare authorities across Britain, its first European market.
A survey of primary care trusts (PCTs), or local funding bodies, released by broker Nomura Code on Friday found several not recommending the drug as a treatment for spasticity in multiple sclerosis and many viewing it as “low priority”.
GW managing director Justin Gover told Reuters all new medicines faced challenges of market access in Britain in the current economic environment and any suggestion Sativex was suffering unique difficulties was misplaced.
“GW is very pleased with the Sativex launch and has received very encouraging clinician feedback and support,” he said.
Sativex, which is sprayed under the tongue, is sold as a prescription drug in Britain by GW's partner, German group Bayer AG BAYGn.DE, at a cost of around 11 pounds ($18) per day.
Its approval last June was a major boost for GW which cultivates cannabis plants at a secret location in the English countryside and has spent 11 years developing the product.
The challenge now is to win acceptance among patients, doctors and payers, as the drug gets set for rollout into other markets. Sativex, also available in Canada, was approved in New Zealand earlier this week and was expected to go on sale in Spain before the end of this year.
Unlike some other new drugs, Sativex has not been assessed by Britain’s cost-effectiveness watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), leaving decisions on its use in the hands of PCTs.
Nomura Code analyst Samir Devani, who rates GW shares a “reduce”, said his survey of responses from 55 percent of 150 PCTs suggested that uptake among Britain’s 100,000 multiple sclerosis patients would be limited.
But Gover said the drug was always designed for a specific subset of MS patients and the company’s commercial strategy was never based on blanket acceptance by PCTs.
GW shares, which hit a four-year high of 156 pence in June on Sativex’s approval in Britain, were 1 percent higher at 102 pence by 1130 GMT. (Editing by Dan Lalor) ($1 = 0.6198 pound)
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