Sanofi’s Zaltrap Rejected by England’s Health-Cost Agency

Sanofi’s cancer drug Zaltrap was rejected by England’s cost regulator, which said the drug isn’t cost effective even after the company offered a discount.

The treatment, also known as aflibercept, is clinically effective against colorectal cancer but exceeded the threshold at which a drug can be considered a cost-effective use of government funds, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said in a statement today. The agency, known as NICE, rejected Sanofi’s appeal of the decision, it said. NICE advises the National Health Service in England and Wales.

Governments are pushing back on high prices of new drugs as they seek to rein in health-care spending. Sanofi effectively cut the price of the $11,000-a-month treatment in half in the U.S. after doctors from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center wrote in the New York Times they had decided not to use the medicine because it was more costly than Roche Holding AG’s Avastin and no more effective.

“We have already recommended six treatments for various stages of colorectal cancer and are disappointed not to be able to add aflibercept as another treatment option for this stage of the disease,” Andrew Dillon, NICE’s chief executive officer, said in the statment. “However, we have to be confident that the benefits that drugs offer patients really do justify what the NHS will have to pay for them.”

Scotland, which does its own review of the cost effectiveness of new drugs, recommended the treatment, Sanofi said in a statement today.

“We are extremely disappointed NICE has not approved aflibercept, particularly given that based on the same basic evidence, the Scottish Medicines Consortium accepted aflibercept,” Steve Oldfield, Sanofi’s managing director for the U.K. and Ireland, said in the e-mailed statement.

A 100-milligram vial of the drug has a list price of about 296 pounds ($488), while a 200-milligram vial is priced at 591 pounds, the agency said. The cost per patient will vary depending on the dose and length of treatment, NICE said. The agency declined to say how much of a discount Paris-based Sanofi offered.

Sanofi rose 2 percent to 75.07 euros at 12:40 p.m. in Paris. The stock has fallen 2.7 percent this year, compared with a 3.8 percent increase in the Bloomberg Europe Pharmaceutical Index.

The European Union approved Zaltrap in February 2013 for adults with colorectal cancer that’s spread after initial treatment. U.S. regulators approved the medicine in August 2012. Zaltrap had sales of 53 million euros ($73 million) last year.

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