NICE reverses position on new use for Novartis’ Lucentis

Discount does the trick in new move in eye drug competition

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The U.K.’s drug price watchdog apparently achieved the effect it intended when it earlier turned its back on Novartis’ eye drug Lucentis for diabetic macular edema. Novartis has offered to drop its price and NICE has now reversed its recommendation in draft guidance.

Novartis ($NVS) traditionally charges £742.2 ($1,200) per injection, but is offering a confidential discount to the National Health System, Pharma Times reports. The pricey drug is already approved there to treat patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD), and in 2010 the NHS spent £130 million ($210 million) for that use alone. While this use is not likely to be as lucrative as wet AMD, for which Lucentis was once the only approved treatment, it provides the drug some additional market share as it faces some new serious competition.

Novartis did not get the full monty from the regulator for the new use, Pharma Times reports. NICE’s recommendation is for Lucentis to be used to treat the condition as an option to laser treatment if the retinal thickness of the patient is at least 400 micrometers. A final decision on the recommendation is expected in February. FDA reviewers in July recommended the drug for diabetic macular edema in the U.S., saying the drug not only stopped vision loss in diabetes patients, it helped them regain sight. Roche ($RHHBY) markets Lucentis in the U.S.

There has been a bit of a three-way battle going on among Lucentis, Roche’s Avastin, which some doctors use off-label for wet AMD because it is cheaper, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ ($REGN) newcomer Eylea, which is cheaper than Lucentis and which studies have shown requires fewer treatments for results. The three drugs have been running into each other around the globe as each company seeks new uses and tries to get, steal or retain market share.

– here’s the Pharma Times story

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