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UK's NICE Backs Novartis Eye Drug, Reversing Earlier Guidance

10/04/2012 | 08:16pm US/Eastern

By Marta Falconi

ZURICH--The U.K.'s health costs watchdog has reversed earlier guidance and now recommends eye drug Lucentis for a new use, after its maker Novartis AG (>> Novartis AG) offered a better price.

The U.K's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE, recommends the drug for certain patients who suffer from visual impairment caused by diabetic macular oedema, the regulator said Friday. Without discount, Lucentis costs 742.17 pounds ($1,195) per injection and is given monthly, NICE said.

The new draft guidance is now up for consultation.

NICE decides if particular treatments should be used on the state-run National Health Service. The watchdog had previously rejected Lucentis for diabetic macular oedema, a condition caused by fluid collecting in the central part of the retina, which leads to blurred central vision and other problems.

The drug is already recommended to treat wet age-related macular degeneration.

Novartis said it was pleased with NICE's decision, but lamented the watchdog's move to restrict Lucentis to only those patients with more thickened retinas.

"This has undervalued the benefits that Lucentis provides to all patients with visual impairment due to diabetic macular oedema," the company said.

The Swiss company said it will continue to work with NICE and other health authorities until final draft guidance is issued by early 2013.

Lucentis, which generated nearly 2.05 billion Swiss francs ($2.19 billion) in sales in 2011, was co-developed by Novartis and Swiss rival Roche Holding AG (ROG.VX). Novartis markets the medicine outside the U.S.

Write to Marta Falconi at marta.falconi@dowjones.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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