NHS nod for cost-cut leukaemia drug
A life-prolonging leukaemia drug rejected by the health advisory body is to be made available on the NHS after the manufacturer agreed to lower the price.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) ruled in October that obinutuzumab should not be made widely available for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) patients because of gaps in Roche's economic proposal.
But in draft guidance published today, the health body has reversed its decision on the grounds that the drug, also known as Gazyvaro, is offered at a reduced price.
It follows weeks of discussions between the Department of Health and Roche, which said the size of the newly-agreed discount is to be kept confidential.
Jayson Dallas, manager at Roche UK, said: "We are very pleased that Nice has reversed its initial decision on Gazyvaro which has shown, in trials, to provide a significant survival advantage over the standard therapy available to patients with this devastating disease.
"The priority now is to ensure the translation of this positive draft decision into concrete final guidance to ensure that patients are able to access the drug on the NHS as soon as possible."
Professor Chris Bunce, research director at Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, said it was encouraging that Nice "persisted" in working with Roche to approve the drug.
"The decision by Nice to reverse their stance regarding obinutuzumab is very welcome news," he said.
"The disease remains largely incurable but obinutuzumab has been proven to significantly prolong survival times for many patients.
"It is encouraging to see drug companies and Nice showing persistence in working together in order to ensure that patients can benefit from new treatments."
CLL is the most common type of adult leukaemia in the UK, with more than 3,000 people diagnosed each year.
Roche said the drug can "reduce the risk of cancer worsening or death by up to 86%" when used with chemotherapy, compared to having chemotherapy alone, for patients with CLL.
The pharmaceutical company said that 22% of patients who took the drug alongside chemotherapy during clinical trials were "disease free" after treatment.
Professor Carole Longson, health technology evaluation director at Nice, said: "We are pleased that Roche responded to our consultation and provided further analyses to allow us to propose recommending obinutuzumab as a treatment option for untreated chronic lymphocytic leukaemia."
The draft guidance will be open for consultation in England and Wales from today.