[Ip-health] Reuters: Call for Britain to over-ride patents on Roche cancer drug

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Oct 1 05:10:22 PDT 2015


Markets | Thu Oct 1, 2015 7:55am EDT

Call for Britain to over-ride patents on Roche cancer drug

* Patient group wants compulsory licence for Kadcyla

* Breast cancer drug deemed too pricey for UK health service

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON, Oct 1 (Reuters) - A group of patients and campaigners has called on
Britain's health minister to over-ride patents protecting Roche's expensive
breast cancer drug Kadcyla to allow for the import or manufacture of
cut-price copies.

The move shows the growing pricing pressure on drug companies on both sides
of the Atlantic, especially in the field of cancer where new treatments can
cost well over $100,000.

In a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Thursday, the Coalition for
Affordable T-DM1 said the government should grant a compulsory licence for
patents covering Kadcyla, or T -DM1, allowing other companies to supply
so-called biosimilar versions.

It said UK and European law contained provisions for this and one company
had already indicated a willingness to make the drug in Britain, if a
compulsory licence was issued. (

While Kadcyla can add about six months to the lives of some women with
breast cancer, Britain's cost watchdog the National Institute for Health
and Care Excellence (NICE) says its price of 90,000 pounds ($136,000) per
patient is excessive.

The Swiss drugmaker contends the cost is actually less than this because
the drug is typically given for shorter periods than NICE assumes.

In response to the coalition's letter, Roche said there needed to be a
"pragmatic, flexible and sustainable" way of assessing cancer drugs and
British patients should not be denied access to medicines routinely
available elsewhere in Europe.

The British health ministry had no immediate comment.

As well as being rejected by NICE, from next month Kadcyla will also not be
covered by the Cancer Drugs Fund - set up to pay for drugs turned down by
NICE - prompting Roche Chief Executive Severin Schwan recently to call
Britain's drug system "stupid".

Issuing a compulsory licence would put Britain on a collision course with
the pharmaceuticals industry, something the government is unlikely to want
given its desire to encourage life sciences.

In the past, compulsory licences have been used by some developing
countries, most notably India, which stunned the industry in 2012 by
overriding a valid patent on Bayer's cancer drug Nexavar.

Kadcyla combines the antibody used in Roche's established Herceptin drug
and a tumour-killing payload delivered directly into cancer cells, causing
fewer chemotherapy-related side effects such as hair loss.

It is one of a number of targeted therapies that are revolutionising cancer
care. Other promising new approaches include a range of drugs to help the
immune system fight cancer, which also carry a high price. ($1 = 0.6609
pounds) (Editing by Adrian Croft)

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