December 3, 2009 / 12:09 AM / 10 years ago

Bayer appeals NICE's ruling on liver cancer drug

LONDON (Reuters) - German drugmaker Bayer is appealing against what it says is a “perverse” decision by Britain’s health watchdog to rule its critical liver cancer drug too pricey for the state health service.

A journalist takes pictures of the new logo of Bayer Schering Pharma AG in Berlin December 29, 2006. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Bayer said the decision by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to deny critically ill patients access to Nexavar was contradictory and it accused the watchdog of flouting guidelines and being unfair.

“Bayer has appealed NICE’s negative decision because we believe that the Institute has acted outside its own protocol and failed to adequately consider clinical need and innovation in its decision making,” Nicole Farmer, Bayer’s British head of oncology, said as the appeal was submitted on Thursday.

Most people who get the aggressive form of liver cancer are diagnosed too late for surgery to help, meaning that Nexavar, also known as sorafenib, is one of the only options left.

Made by Bayer and its development partner Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Nexavar has been shown to prolong life by almost four months on average and is available in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Romania.

The drug costs around 2,900 pounds a month and would cost about 8,300 pounds per patient on average. Bayer has offered to give every fourth pack for free.

“Nexavar is only suitable for a very small number of patients... about 600 (at any one time) in the UK — who have a very high clinical need,” Farmer said.

The health watchdog said on November 19 it was rejecting Nexavar because “the price being asked by Bayer is simply too high to justify using NHS money which could be spent on better value cancer treatments.”

But Bayer said this ruling “flies in the face of” UK treatment guidelines and NICE’s own “end of life” criteria and the British government’s strategy to bring cancer outcomes in line with Europe.

A spokeswoman for NICE said any appeal would first have to be legally checked and then a date would be set for a hearing.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Sharon Lindores)

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