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UK's NICE says Bayer liver cancer drug too costly

* Only drug of its type for most common type of liver cancer

* Drug available in France, Germany, Spain, Italy

* Decision a setback for Bayer, Onyx

* Bayer to appeal

LONDON, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Britain's health watchdog has blocked a critical liver cancer drug, saying it is too pricey for the state health service, leaving manufacturer Bayer BAYGn.DE vowing to appeal the decision.

Most people who get the aggressive form of cancer are diagnosed too late for surgery to help, meaning that the drug -- Nexavar -- is one of the only options left, and it has been shown to prolong life by almost four months on average.

The decision, announced on Thursday, is a setback for Germany's Bayer and its partner Onyx Pharmaceuticals ONXX.O, which have already seen Nexavar turned down by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to treat kidney cancer.

NICE said in the final draft recommendation it would not recommend Bayer’s Nexavar to Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) for the most common type of liver cancer as it was too expensive, even though it is available in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Romania.

The recommendation follows an earlier first draft recommendation to the same effect and means that the consultations have now closed and the only way for companies and patient groups to fight the decision is to appeal. [ID:nL9652210]

The about 2,900 pounds ($4,877) per month drug, also known as sorafenib, would cost about 8,300 pounds per patient as it keeps them alive for just under four extra months on average, and Bayer has offered to give every fourth pack for free.

“The price being asked by Bayer is simply too high to justify using NHS money which could be spent on better value cancer treatments,” said NICE Chief Executive Andrew Dillon in a statement.

Nicole Farmer, Bayer’s British head of oncology, said: “We believed we had satisfied NICE’s criteria for how Nexavar would be assessed -- however, the goal posts appeared to have moved.

“We shall appeal against the decision and if we are successful, this will enable the NHS to offer a similar level of access to Nexavar as other EU countries such as France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Romania where it has already been granted funding.”

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.

Bayer believes it can generate peak worldwide sales of 2 billion euros ($2.99 billion) a year from the drug. (Reporting by Ben Deighton; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter) ($1=.5946 Pound) ($1=.6680 Euro)

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