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Pfizer's Ibrance too pricey for National Health Service, UK body says

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Pfizer's Ibrance too pricey for National Health Service, UK body says

England's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said that Pfizer Inc.'s breast cancer drug Ibrance is too costly for routine funding from the National Health Service.

In draft guidance published Feb. 3, NICE said it will not recommend the treatment, meaning it will not be available through the state-run health system in England and Wales.

NICE calculated that a full course of Ibrance treatment costs £79,650. This is based on the £2,950 price tag of a 21-capsule treatment and the median progression-free survival rate of 24.8 months seen in clinical testing, according to NICE.

In its assessment, the review committee found that Ibrance stalled the growth of locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer for an extra 10 months on average. The committee concluded that while this showed promise for overall survival, it could not be quantified from clinical trials.

Carole Longson, director of the center for health technology assessment at NICE, said that reviewers need more evidence of the drug's impact.

"Even when allowing for these potential benefits, it was still not enough to make palbociclib cost-effective at its current price," she said.

In the company's Jan. 31 earnings call, Pfizer CEO Ian Read expressed optimism for Ibrance's place in the market, noting that its revenue has tripled year over year.

"Ibrance remains a significant growth driver," Read said, adding that it would launch throughout Europe this year after the EU's November 2016 approval. He said that Ibrance is also being studied for use in treating pancreatic and head and neck cancers.

Companies' drug-pricing practices have been under increasing scrutiny worldwide, but unlike other large pharmas, Pfizer has refrained from publicly committing to a price increase cap. In the call with investors, Read said that, "we are not changing our philosophy vis-à-vis how we price our medications and when we take those price increases."

NICE estimates that 5,500 people in England would be eligible for Ibrance treatment for breast cancer. According to the committee's data, there are about 45,000 new breast cancer diagnoses a year in the country.

NICE has made its draft guidance available for public comment until Feb. 24.