UK cost agency backs J&J cancer drug in change of heart

LONDON (Reuters) - A cancer drug originally discovered in Britain has finally been endorsed for treating advanced prostate cancer before chemotherapy on the country’s state health service in a change of heart by the cost agency NICE.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said on Monday it was now recommending Zytiga, which is sold by Johnson & Johnson, following the submission of new evidence on the drug’s benefits.

The current list price of Zytiga is 2,930 pounds ($4,217) for 120 tablets and NICE said this was expected to fall to 2,300 by the time its final guidance was published. J&J has also agreed to rebate the cost of any tablets needed beyond 10 months of treatment.

Paul Workman, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, whose scientists discovered the medicine, said the latest NICE decision was good news but he criticized the agency for a three-year delay in reaching the verdict.

“The answer today is the right one, but I would urge NICE to implement the planned overhaul of its drug appraisal processes as soon as possible to avoid repeated delays in getting the best, most innovative treatments to patients,” Workman said.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by Louise Heavens