British Regulators Sour on Novartis's Cancer Drug

British regulators from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE, decided on Wednesday not to recommend  Novartis's (NYSE: NVS  ) cancer drug Jakavi for treatment of myelofibrosis, a type of rare blood cancer affecting less than one in 100,000 people each year in Britain.

In a silver lining for Novartis, NICE did note that Jakavi showed effectiveness in treating symptoms of myelofibrosis, such as an enlarged spleen and fatigue, and that the drug could offer a survival benefit to patients. However, regulators wouldn't green light the drug as it "could not be considered a cost-effective use of NHS resources" compared to other therapies.

NICE's Health Technology Evaluation Centre Director, Carole Longson, commented on the cost issue in NICE's press statement, saying:

It is disappointing not to be able to recommend this new treatment in our preliminary recommendations, but in order to do this we have to be sure that the treatment is both clinically and cost effective, because money has to be diverted from elsewhere in the health service to pay for it.

The recommendation made by NICE is only guidance, and a final decision on the drug won't come until later this year. Regulators will consult with Novartis before then. Jakavi is already approved in the E.U. to treat myelofibrosis.


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