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NICE turns down BMS' Opdivo for head and neck cancer

Published on 11/04/17 at 08:30am

Bad news for Bristol-Myers Squibb as NICE chooses not to recommend its immunotherapy drug Opdivo (nivolumab) for use in head and neck cancer treatment.

BMS is currently pushing Opdivo for authorisation as a treatment for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck which has progressed following platinum-based chemotherapy.

Head and neck cancer affects around 10,000 people in the UK, with survival rates standing at just six months after the disease has progressed with chemotherapy. Despite evidence that administering the drug led to a “significant improvement” in overall survival rates, and a lack of treatments paths available to patients in the disease area, NICE could not recommend the drug due to its high cost.

“The committee heard that treatment options for patients in this area are limited, and it’s important to patients that treatment extends their life and improves the quality of life,” explained Professor Carole Longson, Director of the Health Technology Evaluation Centre at NICE,but the additional costs of nivolumab were considered to be very high in relation to its benefit to be recommended for routine NHS use at present.”

As a caveat to the ruling, NICE’s draft guidance does note that those already taking the drug will continue to receive it until told otherwise by their doctor. Consultees are now welcomed to comment on the decision until 4 May.

Matt Fellows

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