UK's NICE again rejects Bayer liver cancer drug

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s healthcare cost-effectiveness watchdog has again rejected Bayer’s drug Nexavar for treating liver cancer on the state health service, despite a revised charging scheme from the company.

Wednesday’s decision is a setback for Bayer and its partner Onyx Pharmaceuticals, which have already seen Nexavar turned down by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to treat kidney cancer.

Nexavar received a preliminary rebuff from NICE in May but Bayer had hoped to convince the agency Nexavar was worth paying after it put forward a patient access scheme that would have reduced the cost of treatment to the National Health Service.

Bayer said the decision on its drug, known generically as sorafenib, for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma was a blow to patients.

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

“This proposal by NICE conflicts dramatically with the government’s strategy to bring UK cancer outcomes in-line with the rest of Europe, where Nexavar is already widely available in countries such as France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Romania, and Greece.”

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

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 tumors.

The German drugmaker believes it can generate peak worldwide sales of 2 billion euros ($2.9 billion) a year from the drug.

($1=.6897 Euro)

Reporting by Ben Hirschler