UK cost agency rejects Amgen's virus-based cancer drug

An Amgen sign is seen at the company's office in South San Francisco, California October 21, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

LONDON (Reuters) - A first-in-class melanoma drug from Amgen based on a tumor-killing virus has been deemed not worth using on Britain’s state health service by the country’s cost-effectiveness agency NICE.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said on Wednesday there was not enough evidence to be able to say whether Imlygic, also known as talimogene laherparepvec or “T-Vec”, was as clinically effective as other drugs for the deadly skin cancer.

The draft NICE guidance is now open for consultation.

Imlygic uses a herpes simplex virus, the type that causes cold sores, which has been modified to only infect cancer cells. It is injected directly into tumors.

Until a few years ago, chemotherapy was the only available treatment for patients whose melanoma had spread. But recently there have been a number of new treatments, including immunotherapies from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck, which have been recommended by NICE.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by David Evans