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Merck/Pfizer’s Bavencio wins slight reprieve after NICE nod

Published on 01/03/18 at 10:54am

Just two weeks ago, Merck KGaA and Pfizer were hit with a major setback for their PD-L1 immunotherapy, Bavencio, after it registered a major miss in lung cancer. Now, it has finally received some good news following the recommendation from NICE for its use in metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (mMCC), with it receiving funding from the Cancer Drug Fund (CDF).

Bavencio will be used in a first-line basis in patients who had not had any previous chemotherapy on the CDF, and will be used on a routine basis for patients on the NHS in second-line usage.

The CDF-route is only a temporary financing option for the treatment whilst NICE waits on further, confirmatory data on the treatment on a first-line basis. Once received, NICE will revaluate the treatment to determine whether it is cost-effective for routine use on the NHS.

“Merck and Pfizer are really pleased with today’s decision by NICE, which will result in patients in England, Wales and Northern Ireland being able to access the first targeted systemic treatment option licensed in the UK for mMCC,” commented Belinda Byrne, Medical Director at Merck. “We have worked closely with NICE and the CDF to ensure all mMCC patients can get access to avelumab as early as possible in their treatment.”

Bavencio was given approval for use in mMCC in Europe during September of last year and in the US during March.

Gaining approvals elsewhere has not been plain sailing, after a number of crushing failures in clinical trials for the partnership.

This failure in second-line lung cancer had been preceded by similar struggles for the treatment in a combination treatment for locally advanced or metastatic solid tumours and as third-line treatment for gastric cancer.

The poor results have many questioning whether Pfizer will stick with the partnership, given that each failure for a late-to-market treatment means falling further behind competitors.

Pfizer is widely expected, at some point, to make a large acquisition and, with failures in immunotherapy, the expectation may shift to a move for company, such as BMS, that is already frontrunner in the field.

Ben Hargreaves

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