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BMS’ Opdivo to finally be made available to lung cancer patients in the UK

Published on 20/09/17 at 09:02am

It is two and a half years since patients with lung cancer in the US were able to receive Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo for treatment, the UK has finally caught up after NICE's approval of the drug.

The immunotherapy treatment will be funded through the Cancer Drug Fund, after the organisation and the company were able to agree on a price cut to allow the full efficacy of the treatment to be judged.

The move is likely to open up the treatment for approximately 1,300 people who are eligible for the treatment. The move comes a few months after Scotland had approved the drug, with 150 patients a year expected to benefit from the decision. The agreement will see patients in Wales gain access to the treatment in a further two months.

The cost per patient is dependent upon weight but the average treatment is looking likely to cost approximately £5,000 per month. This price comes after negotiations to drive down the price of Opdivo, which had been initially rejected by prior guidance as not being cost-effective.

“This new deal means that we can give patients access to what we know is a promising treatment whilst more evidence is gathered on its value”, said Professor Carole Longson, Director of the NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation.

Price was also the focus of Professor Paul Workman’s comments on the wrangling that had occurred to finally give patients access to the treatment. The Chief Executive of the ICR signalled his frustration at negotiations: “I’m pleased to see NICE and the drug’s manufacturer showing flexibility in reaching agreement on the drug’s approval. But this is another instance where patients in the UK have had to wait far longer than necessary to access an innovative new treatment. Initially the drug was priced far too high to ever have been judged cost-effective by NICE.”

For BMS, it represents another small victory for its key drug. The treatment was one of the major headlines from the recent ESMO conference, where it managed to display impressive results in combination with Yervoy to treat patients with kidney cancer in first-line treatment.

This came after the trial testing the combination had to be halted, as the treatment was so effective it was deemed necessary to offer the treatment to all patients on the trial – with a 37% reduction in risk of death compared to standard treatment.

Ben Hargreaves

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