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Novartis’s Lucentis Fails to Win Backing in Final U.K. Guidance

Novartis AG’s Lucentis eye drug failed to win the backing of the U.K.’s health-cost agency in final guidelines on the treatment of diabetic macular edema.

Novartis underestimated the cost of the medicine because some patients need therapy in both eyes, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said today in an e-mailed statement. The agency, known as NICE, advises the state-run National Health Service on which treatments represent value for money. Today’s decision mirrors a preliminary one in July.

Diabetic macular edema is caused by leaky blood vessels in the eye. Novartis didn’t provide “a true reflection of the cost-effectiveness” of Lucentis compared with the standard treatment, laser therapy, NICE said. Lasers cauterize the vessels and seal them off, minimizing the leakage.

“This decision has been made despite four independent appeals by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, the Royal College of Nursing, Novartis and a joint appeal by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, the Macular Disease Society, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Diabetes UK,” Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis said in a statement.

Lucentis has been shown to double the likelihood of gaining vision and reduce the chance of losing vision compared with laser therapy, the drugmaker said.

“Novartis will continue to work with NICE and the U.K. department of health toward a solution that will allow patients access to this important therapy,” the company said.

NICE already recommends Lucentis for a separate eye condition, wet age-related macular degeneration. The injected therapy last week failed to win NICE’s backing for visual impairment caused by macular edema in preliminary guidelines.

The drug costs 742.17 pounds ($1,160) for each injection, according to NICE. Lucentis is given monthly until a patient’s vision is stable over three consecutive months, and treatment may resume if sight later becomes impaired, the agency said.

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