UK's NICE Backs Novartis Eye Drug for New Use
01/03/2013| 07:16pm US/Eastern
By Marta Falconi
ZURICH--The U.K.'s healthcare cost watchdog said Friday it is backing eye drug Lucentis to treat diabetes-related vision problems after the drug's maker, Novartis AG (NVS, NOVN.VX), offered to sell it to the country's health service at a discounted price.
In a final version of draft guidance, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommended Lucentis for some patients with diabetic macular edema, which causes blurred vision because of leaking fluid inside the eye. Novartis estimates as many as 25,000 people in the U.K. suffer from the condition.
Neither Novartis nor the regulatory body, commonly known as NICE, disclosed the discount the drug maker is offering on Lucentis. NICE, which is responsible for deciding if particular treatments should be used by the state-run National Health Service, said that before the discount Lucentis costs 742.17 pounds ($1,208) per monthly injection, a price it deemed too expensive to recommend the drug.
The final guidance is expected to be published next month, NICE said. Until then, the draft can be appealed.
Novartis praised the NICE decision, saying it would improve "the standard of care for people with diabetic macular edema."
Lucentis generated nearly 2.05 billion Swiss francs ($2.24 billion) in sales in 2011. It was co-developed by Novartis and Swiss rival Roche Holding AG (ROG.VX). The drug is already recommended to treat wet age-related macular degeneration.
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