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Novartis’s Lucentis Wins U.K. Backing as Drug’s Price Cut

Novartis AG’s Lucentis eye drug won the backing of the U.K.’s health-cost agency for treatment of a diabetes-related condition after the company agreed to discount the price and provided added evidence the medicine was effective in some patients.

Lucentis, also known as ranibizumab, is recommended for impaired sight in some patients with diabetic macular edema, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said in an e-mailed statement today. The decision reverses a 2011 ruling by the agency, known as NICE.

NICE, which advises the state-run National Health Service on which treatments represent value for money, rejected Lucentis in 2011 because the drug didn’t provide enough benefit to justify the cost.

Diabetic macular edema is caused by leaky blood vessels in the eye. Lucentis, an injection, prevents the buildup of a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor that contributes to the leakage. NICE already recommends Lucentis for a separate eye condition, wet age-related macular degeneration.

The drug costs 742.17 pounds ($1,210.18) 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.

Novartis will reduce the price, and the size of the discount is confidential, NICE said. The Basel, Switzerland-based company also provided updated analyses showing the drug was more effective in patients with a central retinal thickness greater than 400 micrometers.

NICE’s draft recommendation on Lucentis is now open for public comment, and final guidance should be published next month, the agency said.

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