Tarceva image

Discount sways NICE into recommending Tarceva

pharmafile | May 10, 2012 | News story | Sales and Marketing Iressa, NICE, NSCLC, Roche, Tarceva, lung cancer 

NICE is recommending Roche’s lung cancer pill Tarceva in patients with a certain type of the disease. 

The watchdog said in final draft guidance that it recommends Tarceva (erlotinib) as an option for the first line treatment of people with locally advanced or metastatic EFGR mutation-positive non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). 

This is a reversal of its previous guidance, which recommended against using the drug as NICE did not believe it was any better than AstraZeneca’s Iressa (gefitinib).

NICE currently recommends Iressa for the first line treatment of EGFR mutation-positive NSCLC, which it says is now the treatment that most patients receive. 

But in its new round of guidance, NICE said it heard from clinical experts who said that Tarceva is as equally effective as Iressa. 

This new information – combined with a revised patient access scheme from Roche – convinced NICE of the drug’s cost effectiveness. 

Professor Carole Longson, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE, said: “There is currently no trial data available which directly compares erlotinib and gefitinib, however, clinical specialists informed the committee that the drugs are very similar and equally as effective. 

“During their initial discussion of this topic, the independent advisory committee felt that they did not have enough information to be able to make the decision to recommend it for use in the NHS as an alternative to gefitinib, and therefore asked the manufacturer to provide further analyses during consultation on the first draft guidance. 

“During this period, the manufacturer of erlotinib provided these further analyses and the committee were able to recommend erlotinib as a cost effective use of NHS recourses. We are pleased to be able to recommend another treatment option for this stage of the disease.”

The cost of a pack of 30 (150mg) Tarceva tablets is just over £1,600, but Roche’s patient access scheme will see this reduced to an amount that is confidential.

Iressa is also available to the NHS via a patient access scheme – this sees the drug priced at a single fixed cost of £12,200 per patient, irrespective of the duration of treatment. 

The Swiss firm expects to receive final guidance from NICE in June 2012. 

But it has not all been good news for Tarceva – in 2010 the drug failed to win NICE’s endorsement as a maintenance therapy for EGFR lung cancer patients, as the watchdog was uncertain how long Tarceva could extend life. 

Ben Adams 

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