Keytruda Gains NICE Approval While Kadcyla Fails

September 7, 2015

Cancer drug cost troubles in the UK prompt NHS to slash its list of approved-for-use oncology products.

Last week, The Guardian reported that the National Health Services (NHS) would cut back on the number of oncology drugs that’d be approved for use in cancer patients. The list of 16 includes drugs like Kadycla and Avastin, both by Roche. Kadycla is the most expensive drug in the United Kingdom so far, costing about £90,000 annually for each patient.

While agreeing the drug was effective in women with advanced breast cancer resistant to Herceptin, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) had rejected general use of the drug by NHS last year citing cost concerns. NICE was hopeful the manufacturer would be ready to renegotiate on the drug price, without luck. The Cancer Drugs Fund—established by the coalition government in the United Kingdom in 2011 to help fund for some of the newer, more expensive, but life-saving cancer drugs—has an annual budget of £200 million, but is expected to touch £380 million in 2015. The balance struck has been a combination of additional funding provided to the fund and shrinking the list of drugs covered by the NHS.

Meanwhile, Merck’s Keytruda became the first PD-1 inhibitor to receive a positive recommendation from Nice for use in patients with certain types of melanoma. Sold in the United States at $150,000, Merck announced a confidential discount for NHS. The drug, however, has been available for patients since March through the country’s Early Access to medicine Scheme.