Bristol-Myers, Novartis Cancer Drugs Are Under U.K. Cost Review

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Sprycel and Novartis AG’s Tasigna are under review by the U.K. health-cost regulator for the treatment of a rare blood cancer because the benefits of the drugs may not justify their high prices.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence wasn’t able to recommend either medicine for patients whose chronic myeloid leukemia doesn’t respond to the standard dose of Novartis’s Glivec treatment, according to draft guidelines published today. A higher dose of Glivec also failed to win the agency’s backing for that group of patients.

The agency, known as NICE, advises the government-funded National Health Service on which treatments are the most cost-effective. Sprycel and Tasigna cost more than 30,000 pounds ($50,000) a year for each patient, NICE said in a statement. Novartis has raised the price of Glivec, also sold as Gleevec, to more than 40,000 pounds a year for the high dose, NICE said.

“When we recommend the use of a very expensive treatments, we need to be confident that they bring sufficient additional benefit to justify their cost,” NICE Chief Executive Officer Andrew Dillon said in the statement. Evidence supporting the use of Sprycel, Tasigna and high-dose Glivec in the hard-to-treat form of the disease “is very weak,” he said.

Chronic myeloid leukemia affects about 560 people in the U.K. each year, according to NICE. The illness requires treatment over a long period of time, making the cost to the health system even greater, NICE said.

The guidelines are open for public comments. Until final recommendations are issued, the National Health Service should make decisions on treatment locally, and people already receiving the drugs may continue with therapy, NICE said.

NICE is also reviewing the use of Sprycel and Tasigna by chronic myeloid leukemia patients who can’t take Glivec, and the use of Sprycel, Tasigna and the standard dose of Glivec as an initial treatment for those with the disease.

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