Thursday, August 7, 2008

UK Says Kidney Cancer Drugs Aren’t Worth the Cost

UK Says Kidney Cancer Drugs Aren’t Worth the Cost

Posted by Jacob Goldstein

kidneyIs extending life by a few months worth $50,000? No, says the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

In a report out today, the group concluded that several new drugs for advanced kidney cancer aren’t cost-effective.

In the past few years, Pfizer’s Sutent, Wyeth’s Torisel, Nexavar from Onyx and Bayer and Avastin from Roche and Genentech have been shown to slow the progression of kidney cancer and, in some cases, to extend patients’ lives for a few weeks or months on average. (Avastin has been approved in the EU for kidney cancer, but not in the U.S.)

But giving the drugs costs £20,000 to £35,000 (roughly $40,000 to $70,000) per patient per year in England, the Times of London reports.

That high price isn’t worth the benefit conferred by the drugs, NICE concluded, and buying the drugs would force the National Health System to deny patients other treatments that are a better bang for the pound. The cost-effectiveness limit for NICE is £30,000 per good-quality year of life gained, the Times says.

One cancer doctor told the Times the decision was “an outrage” and a “devastating blow to the kidney cancer community.”

Today’s report, a draft guidance, won’t be the final word on the issue. After a meeting later this year, NICE will issue a final ruling. But even that can be challenged in court; Pfizer and Esai recently won on appeal when they challenged NICE’s rejection of the Alzheimer’s drug Aricept.

Kidney via Wikimedia Commons