[Ip-health] Reuters: UK rejects Gilead's CAR-T cancer cell therapy as too expensive

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Aug 28 05:53:02 PDT 2018



AUGUST 28, 2018 / 1:06 PM / UPDATED 2 HOURS AGO

UK rejects Gilead's CAR-T cancer cell therapy as too expensive

Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) - A cutting-edge CAR-T cell therapy for otherwise
untreatable forms of blood cancer is too expensive to justify its use on
Britain’s state-funded health service, the country’s healthcare cost agency
NICE said on Tuesday.

The decision by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
(NICE) is a blow to U.S. drugmaker Gilead Sciences, which wants to get its
Yescarta product approved for use on the National Health Service (NHS).

The NICE rejection comes one day after the European Commission approved
Yescarta for two aggressive forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. That green light
cleared the way for each European country to decide on whether to fund the

Yescarta is the first CAR-T therapy to be assessed by NICE. The agency is
currently appraising Novartis’s rival Kymriah, which also won EU approval
on Monday. NICE experts met last week to consider initial recommendations
on the Swiss firm’s product, a spokesman said.

Both Yescarta and Kymriah are chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies,
or CAR-Ts, which reprogram the body’s own immune cells to attack malignant

The treatments represents a brand new approach to fighting cancer, since
the therapy involves extraction of infection-fighting cells from a patient.
These cells are then genetically engineered to recognize cancer cells and
infused back.

The process is complex and expensive but it offers hope for people with
certain kinds of blood cancer who have exhausted all other treatment

Meindert Boysen, director of the center for health technology evaluation at
NICE, said Yescarta was “an exciting innovation in very difficult to treat
cancers, with a promise of cure for some patients” but said its price was
too high for it to be considered cost-effective.

The U.S. list price for Yescarta is $373,000. The UK price is confidential.
NICE said Gilead had proposed a “commercial arrangement” if Yescarta was
recommended. Typically, drugmakers provide price discounts in exchange for
NHS access.

Gilead said it was “in ongoing discussions with NICE to identify
appropriate treatment comparators which can clarify how cell therapy may be
made available to patients in the UK”.

Raj Chopra, head of cancer therapeutics at the Institute of Cancer Research
in London, said the NICE rejection was disappointing for patients.

“If we’re going to see CAR-T therapy widely available on the NHS, we need
to find ways to reduce the costs,” he said.

Yescarta was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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