ThromboGenics and Novartis Win U.K. NICE Backing for Jetrea

ThromboGenics NV and Novartis AG won the backing of the U.K.’s health-cost regulator for the eye drug Jetrea as an alternative to surgery for a blindness-causing condition.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, or NICE, issued draft guidance recommending Jetrea as an option for adults with severe symptoms of vitreomacular traction, including those for whom the condition has torn a hole in their retina, the agency said in a statement today. ThromboGenics has indicated it will charge about 2,500 pounds ($3,900) per injection, making it a cost-effective treatment NICE said.

“It’s exactly what we hoped for,” Patrik De Haes, ThromboGenics’s chief executive officer, said by phone. “It’s the first drug ever where you have similar prices across the Western world.” The company charges $3,950 for the drug in the U.S. and about 3,000 euros ($3,979) in Europe, De Haes said.

ThromboGenics, based in Heverlee, Belgium, sold marketing rights to Jetrea outside the U.S. to Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis last year in a deal worth as much as 375 million euros. The drug is the first for a condition that was previously treated only by surgery, and which afflicts about 45,000 people in the U.K., according to Novartis.

ThromboGenics rose 4.4 percent to 31.93 euros in Brussels, the most in three months. Novartis was little changed at 67.15 Swiss francs in Zurich.

Restoring Vision

Vitreomacular traction is a condition in which a gel called the vitreous between the eye’s lens and retina sticks too strongly to the retina, pulling on it and harming vision. Jetrea separates the vitreous from the retina, restoring vision.

Novartis will pay royalties to ThromboGenics on sales of Jetrea outside the U.S., which may reach $335 million a year, said Peter Welford, an analyst at Jefferies LLC in London, in an e-mailed response to questions. Novartis may pay a gross royalty of about 30 percent, he said.

The agency didn’t recommend Jetrea for patients with an epiretinal membrane, a complication of vitreomacular traction that makes patients less likely to respond to the drug.

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