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Bristol-Myers Skin-Cancer Drug Rejected by U.K. Cost Agency

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Yervoy drug was rejected by the U.K.’s health-cost agency, which suggested the company consider lowering the price of the skin-cancer treatment.

About 30 percent of patients treated with the drug would have improved survival, with 10 percent potentially experiencing long-term benefits, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said in a statement today, citing clinical specialists.

The drug costs about 80,000 pounds ($125,600) per patient, said the agency, known as NICE, which advises the National Health Service on whether drugs provide value for money. Yervoy is the first medicine proven to extend the lives of patients with advanced melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

“On the basis of evidence provided so far, ipilimumab could not be considered a cost-effective use of NHS resources,” NICE Chief Executive Officer Andrew Dillon said in the statement. There’s no way to identify which patients will benefit from the drug, he said.

Yervoy is in a new class of drugs designed to fight cancer by removing molecular brakes that prevent immune system cells from destroying tumors.

Bristol shares fell 1 percent to $32.44 at 4 p.m.

The agency’s decision is preliminary. NICE will review comments from the company, health providers and the public before issuing another draft decision, according to the statement. Bristol-Myers can consider whether it wants to lower the cost to the NHS, NICE said.

Bristol-Myers is “extremely disappointed” with the decision and plans to submit further evidence to NICE before it issues final guidance next year, the New York-based company said in an e-mailed statement.

“We remain committed to demonstrating that Yervoy represents real value for money to the NHS, and working to overturn this decision,” Elzbieta Zawislak, a spokeswoman for Bristol-Myers, said in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg News.

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