Diabetes Drug From Bristol and Astra Wins U.K. Panel’s Backing

Forxiga, a new diabetes treatment from AstraZeneca Plc and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., won the backing of the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for some patients in combination with older products.

The drug was recommended with either metformin, a 50-year-old medicine, or insulin, the hormone diabetics often take to keep their blood-sugar levels in check, the agency known as NICE said in a statement. It didn’t recommended Forxiga taken together with metformin and the older drug sulfonylurea, except for research purposes.

NICE said in February it needed more information about the benefits of the drug after the companies refused to offer a discount. The agency, which advises the state-run health system on which treatments represent value for money, said the medicine costs 36.59 pounds ($55.32) for 28 tablets. Final guidance on the drug for the most common form of diabetes, known as Type 2, will be published in June, the agency said.

The disease is “a serious problem in the U.K.” and the treatment provides another option for patients, Carole Longson, health technology evaluation center director at NICE, said in the statement.

Diabetes occurs when a person’s blood sugar gets too high and the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t use it effectively to bring the level back to normal. Type 2 makes up about 90 percent of the 347 million diabetes cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

FDA Rejection

Forxiga, also called dapagliflozin, is one of a new class of diabetes drugs known as sodium glucose co-transporter-2, or SGLT-2, inhibitors that flush excess sugar out of the body in urine and are an alternative to insulin therapy. Insulin is the hormone made by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejected the medicine last year, saying it needed more data about whether the benefits outweigh an increased risk of developing bladder and breast cancer. The pill was approved for sale in Europe in November. The FDA approved a rival SGLT-2 inhibitor, canagliflozin from Johnson & Johnson, in March.