Roche’s Avastin Fails to Win NICE Backing for Ovarian Use

Roche Holding AG’s anti-tumor drug Avastin failed for the second time in two months to win the backing of the U.K.’s health-cost regulator as a treatment for ovarian cancer in a draft decision issued today.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommended against the drug as an initial treatment for women with ovarian cancer that has spread beyond the ovarian lining and then returned six months or more after first being treated with platinum-based chemotherapy. The guidance also covers fallopian tube and primary peritoneal cancer, NICE said.

Though Avastin “may help to delay the spread of a patient’s cancer for a limited time,” there wasn’t evidence to show the drug’s benefit justified its cost, Andrew Dillon, NICE’s chief executive, said in the statement. National Health Service patients have other options for treatment, Dillon said.

Today’s recommendation comes after NICE refused on Dec. 18 to back Avastin for use after ovarian cancer has initially spread. Ovarian is one of the types of cancer Roche has said will drive sales growth for Avastin. The agency in December said it wasn’t clear whether the drug helped women live longer.

Roche said in a statement it’s disappointed with the NICE decision and will work with the agency to get a different recommendation for both categories of ovarian cancer. Avastin was the first drug in 15 years shown to improve the outcome for women with advanced ovarian cancer, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said.

Avastin had 5.76 billion Swiss francs ($6.32 billion) in sales last year, making it Roche’s third-biggest-selling drug.

Both NICE ovarian cancer recommendations are draft decisions subject to final review.